Exhibitions

Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda Art from the collection of Pierre-Jean Chalençon

Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche, French, 1797-1856,
Portrait of Emperor Napoleon the First in his Office, n.d.,
oil on canvas,
Collection of Pierre-Jean Chalençon

Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda


Art from the collection of Pierre-Jean Chalençon


September 13, 2012 - January 29, 2013

The Pentacrest Museums Gallery for Arts, Humanities & Sciences in the Old Capitol Museum & The Black Box Theater at the Iowa Memorial Union, Iowa City

“The masses... must be guided without their knowing it.”
-- Napoléon I to Joseph Fouché, his minister of police

From approximately 1800-1815, Napoléon Bonaparte used official propaganda to control artistic autonomy and manipulate public perceptions of his regime both in France and throughout Europe. As a result, government-sponsored art created during the Consulate and Empire is frequently dismissed by art historians as lacking in experimentation, complexity, and beauty. In this extraordinary traveling exhibition, “Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda,” the aesthetic value and social history of so-called “propagandistic art” created during the First Empire is critically re-examined through the use of visual display, close analysis, and scholarly research. Despite strict censorship laws and a dictatorial arts administration, this exhibition demonstrates that many artists working in the service of Napoléon were deeply inspired by and passionately engaged with their prescribed “official” subjects.  Less of a literal presentation, this aesthetic cornucopia shows off the stunning visual aspects of this luxurious Age of Empire.
 
"Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda" is a visual chronology of more than 120 drawings, prints, paintings, works of sculpture, manuscripts, medals, and objets d’art from the remarkable private Parisian collection of Pierre-Jean Chalençon. This exhibition considers the full range of official art created under Napoléon I and emphasizes the aesthetic qualities of the period.  Some of the most important artists, architects, and sculptors are included, such as Jacques-Louis David, Andrea Appiani, Anne-Louis Girodet, François Gérard, Charles Percier, and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine. The selected works display the visual power of the Napoléonic propaganda “machine” and its scope of influence both politically and artistically; illustrate how Napoléon, his ministers, and artists fabricated and produced an imperial iconography; and provide the viewer with an understanding through the use of images of the legend or myth of Napoléon that persisted after his death in exile.

View the Exhibition:
Virtually walk through the exhibition (video).

Photo slideshow of the exhibition.

Dates and Locations:
September 13, 2012-January 6, 2013
Black Box Theater, 3rd Fl. Iowa Memorial Union

September 13, 2012-January 29, 2013
The Pentacrest Museums Gallery for Arts, Humanities & Sciences in the Old Capitol Museum

Related Events:
More information about Napoléon and the World: European Studies Conference 2012 on Friday, Nov. 30.

View a list of city-wide events relating to "Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda."

 

Curated by Heidi Kraus, Ph.D. and Sean O’Harrow, Ph.D.; senior consultant: Dorothy Johnson, Ph.D.

Organized by the University of Iowa Museum of Art and University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums; sponsored by Lynn & Stuart Weinstein, Joyce & Dick Summerwill, and Bob & Karlen Fellows.