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Indepth Arts News:

"Light: The Industrial Age 1750-1900, Art and Science, Technology and Society"
2001-04-07 until 2001-07-29
Carnegie Museum of Art
Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Light: The Industrial Age 1750-1900, Art and Science, Technology and Society focuses on the era when discoveries about natural and artificial light transformed art as well as everyday life. By experiencing masterpieces of art, rare scientific instruments, and interactive demonstrations, visitors can discover the revolutions in light that were as earth shaking to our ancestors as the digital revolution is to us today.

Light! was organized in partnership with the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, where it was previously on view. Pittsburgh is the only other venue for this remarkable exhibition. The exhibition is sponsored by Bayer Corporation and The PNC Financial Services Group.

The exhibition brings together more than 300 works of major painters and other artists, as well as scientific and historic objects of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for the first time -- many have never been exhibited in the United States. Richard Armstrong, Henry J.Heinz II director of Carnegie Museum of Art, believes that Light! will be widely popular. The exhibition offers something for anyone inquisitive about this crucial historical era, as represented by art and scientific instruments of the moment, says Armstrong. The subject is endlessly fascinating and can be seen as a touchstone to the understanding of our own time.

Light! features artworks of diverse media, including drawing, painting, etching, sculpture, photography, and film. The artists in the exhibition represent the broadest range of styles and techniques of the Industrial Age: the romantics -- Blake, Goya, and Turner; the pre-Raphaelites -- Holman-Hunt and Madox Brown; American greats -- Bierstadt, Whistler, and Homer; impressionists and post-impressionists -- Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Van Gogh, Signac, and Toulouse Lautrec.

Alongside Light!s renowned artists, the exhibition showcases the brilliant careers of scientific luminaries, such as Newton, Priestly, Daguerre, Edison, and Westinghouse, with unusual and exceptional scientific and technological devices: microscopes, astronomical and navigational instruments, candelabra, kerosene and oil lamps, gaslights, a wide variety of early electric light sources, as well as popular science texts, housekeeping manuals, and trade catalogues. The exhibition also demonstrates how light has been used as a medium for entertainment with early projection lanterns, kaleidoscopes, unusual historic photographs, x-rays, photomicrographs, and early motion pictures.

In addition to displaying science, art, and technology side by side, the exhibition offers interactive displays that allow visitors to gain hands-on experience with crucial discoveries in the history of light: Newtons prism experiments, primitive photography, the invention of telescopes and microscopes, theories of vision, and the visual effects of light from different sources.

Light is a fundamental element of life and something that can either be taken for granted or have a physical presence and physical effects -- something that is just as true for each of us as it is for the scientist and the artist, says Louise Lippincott, co-organizer of the exhibition and curator of fine arts at Carnegie Museum of Art. This exhibition is all about experience -- how we experience light versus how scientists and artists of that era experienced it and portrayed it.

Andreas Blühm, head of exhibitions at the Van Gogh Museum and co-organizer of the exhibition, believes the show gives visitors an unparalleled chance to appreciate how even the greatest artists struggled with new technology. Van Gogh mentioned in his letters that his paintings looked different in daylight and gaslight, says Blühm. Visitors to this exhibition will be able to see exactly what he meant. They will see the colors of one of his paintings change in different lights.

Paul Signac
Place des Lices, St.Tropez, 1893
Oil on canvas
25 * x 32 3/16 in.
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh

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