Artists’ perceptions of artificial lighting in the urban landscape during the second half of the 19th century
The Nuits Électriques* exhibition held at MuMa – André Malraux Museum of Modern Art – is the first to explore the artists’ perceptions of artificial lighting in the urban landscape from the 1850s to the eve of World War I.
The 19th century was a major period of change, with nocturnal cityscapes evolving with the advent of artificial lighting. Long veiled in darkness, nights gradually began to be lit up by various forms of lighting, each creating a different atmosphere. The interplay of lights and shadows, chiaroscuro, back-lighting, and the first neon advertising signs offered an array of new visual experiences imbued with the magic and poetry of the night.
These transformations made a deep impression on the artists, who reacted with either curiosity, admiration, fascination, or nostalgia. All over Europe, painters, printmakers, and photographers who were the most open to expressions of modernity adopted night-time scenes as some of their favourite subjects. The exhibition features the artworks of major French artists such as Pissaro, Monet, Caillebotte, Valloton, Bonnard, Vuillard, Marquet, Sonia Delaunay, to name a few, and of several artists from other parts of Europe, such as Swedish artist Eugène Jansson, British painter Atkinson Grimshaw, American painter and printmaker James Whistler, and Spanish painter Darío de Regoyos among others.
The exhibition was organised with the support of the National Library of France, the Cinémathèque Française, and the Musée d'Orsay, and is presented as part of the Normandie Impressionniste and Un Été Au Havre festivals.
* Electric Nights
MuMa - Musée d'Art Moderne André Malraux
2 boulevard Clemenceau