Coming to the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art this summer: “The Idyll Before the Storm: The Art of Rococo France.” This brand new exhibit will explore the decorative arts of 18th-century France, an artistic period marked by an ornamental, theatrical style. “Idyll” was co-curated by Curator of Collections John Daniel Tilford and Dr. Jay Lutz.
In direct contrast to the rigidity of the Baroque period that came before it, the Rococo period prized the asymmetrical, the atmospheric and the ornate. This new exhibit will feature works on paper by French artists Jacques Philippe Caresme and Jean Baptiste Pillement, as well as porcelain from the Sèvres factory — one of the prominent porcelain factories of the time — and German Meissen porcelain.
While the Rococo period was a time of artistic brilliance, it was also a time of a increasing class divide. While the upper class enjoyed the luxuries of enormous wealth, the lower class were left with few systems of social welfare. “The Idyll Before the Storm” highlights the decadence of the art from this era as a prelude to the French Revolution.
“Idyll” also marks the public debut of one of the museum’s newest acquisitions: an Edo-period hanging scroll from the School of Hisikawa Mironobu — a master of Japanese woodblock prints. The scroll depicts a lively gathering of people engaged in a game of “sugoroku” — backgammon — against a curtain adorned with cherry blossoms.
The painting is an example of the ukiyo-e style, a widely popular Japanese painting style that Mironobu popularized. Translated as “pictures of the floating world,” this style depicted a lavish and indulgent era of Japanese society and served as a strong influence for 18th-century Rococo arts. Many rulers were enamored with the ornate ukiyo-e style and sought similarly-ornate art at home.
The purchase was made in honor of the late, beloved professor Dr. Bob Steen, a professor of Japanese and devoted enthusiast of Japanese culture. From the start of the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art in 1993, acquiring, celebrating and teaching about Asian art has been part of the museum’s mission. This recent purchase adds to museum’s burgeoning permanent collection, which helps provide a diverse education to Oglethorpe students studying history, art history, gender studies, studio art and more.
An exhibit featuring many of the Asian works in the museum’s permanent collection premiered last year as a way to honor the late professor. Additionally, the newly-formed Sensei Bob Steen Faculty Humanitarian Award — dedicated to Sensei Steen — was awarded to Dr. Stephen Herschler Mattern, professor of politics, earlier this year.
Also on view this summer: “OUMA Collects 2022,” will feature several more works from the museum’s permanent collection.
Both exhibits will be on view June 17 – Sept. 11, 2022.