Sturtevant & the Salon Pour Rire

Julia Langbein, Junior Research Fellow in History of Art, is co-curator of an exhibition that places work by Elaine Sturtevant (1924-2014) among examples of nineteenth-century Salon caricature.

The exhibition is being held in London at Chewdays until 6 May.

Salon caricature was a genre of caricature that comically reproduced paintings in the booming Parisian illustrated press from the 1840s until the end of the century. The Salon, then France’s and arguably Europe’s central exhibition of contemporary art, opened its doors annually or biennially to the public in the spring; not long after, the pages of the press filled with comic miniature versions of the paintings concurrently on display. Salon caricature was often titled le Salon pour rire—’the Salon to laugh at’.

Sturtevant, who worked between Paris and New York and relocated to Paris definitively in the 1990s, developed practices of remaking (or ‘replicating’) the art of her contemporaries, including Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Claes Oldenburg, beginning in the 1960s. To do so, she mastered painting, printmaking, sculpture and photography, but her meticulous approach developed in drawings.

The intention of the exhibition in sowing Sturtevant among historical satire is not to create a genealogy for her work. Instead, pairing Sturtevant and the Salon caricaturists emphasizes their common grounding in technical expertise and careful study, their play with forms of criticism that inhere in drawing, and their ability, through repetition, to subtly warp one’s experience of the original model.

Posted: 28 April 2017

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