Collection 1880s–1940s


19th-Century Innovators

Fall 2019–Fall 2021


James Ensor. Masks Confronting Death. 1888. Oil on canvas, 32 x 39 1/2" (81.3 x 100.3 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
  • MoMA, Floor 5, 501 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

The late 19th century was an era of rapid change: the emergence of a mass media, new and faster forms of transportation, noisy and bustling cities, and developments in industry, from the sewing machine to the telegraph. Vision itself was likewise transformed, whether by new kinds of illumination—such as electric light—or by the increasingly widespread availability of photographic images. Seeing the world differently, artists reacted to these changes; how one saw was as crucial as what was seen.

Paul Cézanne took up the challenge by looking harder and closer, conscious of alterations in the visual experience of each moment. Others turned their backs on industrial and technological change to look inward, focus on the domestic, or represent the unconscious, dream, and fantasy. Vincent van Gogh, too, attempted to visualize the evanescent—wind, stars, darkness—using thick paint to render scenes “as if seen in a dream, in character and yet at the same time stranger than the reality.”

Organized by Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Ann Temkin, The Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, with Lydia Mullin, Charlotte Barat and Jennifer Harris, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

34 works online


Installation images

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