This exhibition, conceived and curated by the students in Auburn University’s Modern Art History Seminar (ARTS 4150) in Spring 2020, proposes that the art movement known as impressionism can be understood as an act of translation. Spanning the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, its artists depicted their momentary perceptions of the modern world around them, often using bright colors, visible brushstrokes, and flat or oblique spaces.
“Translating the Modern World” frames impressionism with four concepts:
• Artists’ unique perceptions and interpretations of the world around them
•. Its circulation in different national contexts, particularly in the United States
•. The role of printmaking, a technique that literalizes not only the translation of a scene but also the transfer from plate to paper
•. The subtle adaptation by artists who retained their academic approach to painting
Impressionist circles included many women artists who used the style to explore their unique viewpoints and spaces. Four women painters, including Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt, whose art appears in this exhibition, regularly participated in exhibitions held by the impressionist group in Paris in the 1870s and 1880s, and many other women adopted the aesthetic. No longer just for male artists, these women’s translations of their worlds are integrated throughout the exhibition alongside several representations of women by male artists.
We thank our wonderful colleagues at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Art for collaborating with us on this exciting project, and also our generous lenders, including a private collector, the Columbus Museum, the Dixon Museum and Garden, and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
Dr. Emily C. Burns, Associate Professor of Art History, Auburn University