Dream and Reality

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Alexandre DesgoffeVenus at Paphos© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Franck Raux
Ever torn between the lure of the past and the adventure of modernity, 19thh century man, found himself striving to find his own identity in the face of the unprecedented changes in society. The 19th century artist had to reconcile a desire to live in the contemporary world, accepting the realities of industrialisation and new working conditions, with a desire for an "elsewhere" drawn from mythology, legend and ancient civilisations, or drawn from the inner world of dreams, imagination and the mind.

Some artists shielded themselves from contemporary life by taking refuge in a heroic past, evoking scenes from mythology (Degas, Moreau, Maxence), literature or music. Others, reacting to contemporary events like the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, presented realistic images of violent conflicts (Clairin), whilst Meissonier and Gustave Doré brought together the real and the allegorical. Certain artists, anguished and disorientated by the turmoil of their surroundings – particularly as the new century approached – aspired to find the answers to their most profound questions by giving themselves up to intuition, dreams and symbols.

It was by listening to his inner voice, by delving into "the mysterious innermost recesses of the mind", that the artist found a way to express Man's unique nature, his sorrowful and solitary destiny, the mystery of life and death.


Caroline Mathieu, chief curator, musée d'Orsay

Seoul, National Art Center, 4 June – 25 September 2011
Singapore, National Museum of Singapore, 25 October 2011 – February 2012

4 June 2011 - 10 February 2012

Séoul, Singapour

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