posted Sept. 18: Exhibit explores artistic achievements of Ancient Greece


Ancient Greece together with the grandeur of Rome at the height of its power have inspired artists throughout the ages. This was particularly true in 19th century Europe where a profound awareness of this shared cultural legacy aligned with a renewed sense of history in the making.

The artistic achievements inspired by this phenomenon are explored in a new touring exhibition, Antiquity Revisited: The 19th Century, organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, on view at the McMaster Museum of Art until Oct. 22.

In the premiere presentation of this exhibition at the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton, selected works from the AGO's permanent collection have been brought together to illustrate the extent to which antiquity influenced generations of artists including painters, sculptors, photographers, printmakers and publishers. Of particular importance were the many archeological discoveries of the late 18th and early 19th centuries which prompted imitations of ancient civilizations in terms of spirit and style.

Tourism also became more viable at this time, helping to ensure that Rome continued to be seen as the greatest living city of the past while Greece and Greek culture offered a legacy built on the ideals of order, clarity and reason.

With the classical past being consciously “revisited,” many 19th century artists were inspired to make work which effectively combined archeological precision with the ideals of content, form and beauty. This had both aesthetic and moral implications which not only marked an evolutionary approach to artmaking, but which also gave way to even grander meditations on the civilizations of the past as a means to reflect both contemporary aspirations and an increasingly modern vision of society.

The permanent collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario has many exemplary paintings, sculptures, works on paper (including books), photographs, medals and frames, which evidence the extent of the 19th century interest in Greek and Roman art.

The result is an exhibition which highlights work from various collecting areas and draws upon different cultures, styles and media, all of which demonstrate the range of achievements which emerged from the study of the classical past.

Antiquity Revisited: The 19th Century has been curated by Martha Kelleher, assistant curator, European Art, Art Gallery of Ontario, who will speak about the exhibition in a free public lecture at the McMaster Museum of Art on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend.

To augment the theme of Antiquity Revisited: The 19th Century, the McMaster Museum of Art will also present the exhibition Classical/Anti-classical featuring works from the permanent collection to show the stimulus that classical concepts provide, not only as inspiration, but also as a source for reaction.

Lunch time talk: Wednesday Sept. 20, 12:30 p.m.

Classical/Anti-Classical will be on view until Nov. 5.