Contemplation & Confrontation: The Satirical Print in Europe, 1750–1850

James Gillray (British, 1757-1815)
Wierd (sic) Sisters, Ministers of Darkness, Minions of the Moon, 1791
Published by Hannah Humphrey, 23 December 1791
Hand-colored etching and aquatint
9 ¾ x 13 ¾ inches
Gift of David Hilton; 2012:17.7

Contemplation & Confrontation: The Satirical Print in Europe, 1750–1850

August 29, 2015 to December 27, 2015

The sweeping political and societal changes that occurred in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries motivated artists to contemplate, and often to confront, the implications of those transformations through their works. This exhibition features prints by five prominent European satirists who did just that: British artists James Gillray and William Hogarth, Spanish artist Francisco Goya, and French artists Honoré Daumier and Paul Gavarni.

The mode of satire, which gives a humorous face to what are often biting critiques of modern-day society, was a natural fit for the medium of printmaking. Prints were less expensive to create and collect and thus allowed for widespread distribution of an artist’s ideas. The prints on view offer contemporary audiences a unique lens through which to view the decadence and decline of the European aristocracy, the rise of the middle class, and changing attitudes about the Church and morality.

The exhibition was organized by Chyna Bounds, a graduate student in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, under the guidance of curators June Black and Johanna G. Seasonwein.