International Exhibitions / West and East, fine art at International Exhibitions

Certainties about the future, based on industrial development and a belief in progress that underpinned the International Exhibitions, did not stop artists, writers, intellectuals or members of the emerging bourgeoisie from looking to the “East” as a place of longing, beauty and inspiration, while the increase in trade enabled more people to own refined and unusual objects. Romantic thought, moreover, tended to search for a distant dimension, both in time, recalling previous historical periods, and space, in the search for the “exotic”. The principles of realism, which were dominant in the mid-19th century, pervaded both trends in different ways. The International Exhibitions appear in general to have excluded cutting-edge artistic expression, which was found in less institutional spaces such as the Salons. There were nonetheless frequent exchanges between the two, and the International Exhibitions reflected the issues of the time to differing degrees.

Working NumberNameHolding MuseumDateMaterialsCurator Justification
TR2 177Surre ProcessionThe Painting Collection of the The Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Vice Secretary General, National Palaces, Dolmabahçe Palace1873Oil on canvasThis work (commissioned in 1869 to mark the opening of the Suez Canal) represents an interesting example of an Occidental artist commissioned by an Islamic patron. The huge painting, presented at exhibition held in Vienna in 1873, realistically depicts the religious procession carrying gifts from Cairo to the Ka’aba at Mecca.
IT2 021Edward Jenner Inoculates his Small Son with the Smallpox VaccineNational Gallery of Modern Art (GNAM)c. 1878BronzeThe sculpture by Giulio Monteverde represents Edward Jenner, inventor of the smallpox vaccine, inoculating his own son with the very first dose. The work was exhibited at Vienna’s first International Exhibition in 1873, where it won the gold medal. The marble version was exhibited in 1878 at the Paris exhibition, where it won the Medal of Honour.
IT2 019The Temptations of Saint AntonyNational Gallery of Modern Art (GNAM)1878Oil on canvasIn this complex work by Morelli, exhibited at the Exhibition held in Paris in 1878, the Orientalist component, linked with intense elements of verismo or realism, enhances a strong mystic, but at the same time, erotic, tension of the hagiographic tale. The painting was probably inspired by Gustave Flaubert’s 1874 La tentation de Saint-Antoine (The Temptation of Saint Anthony).
IT2 103The Three Ages of WomanNational Gallery of Modern Art (GNAM)1905Oil on canvasShown in 1911 at the International Exhibition of Fine Arts in Rome, Klimt’s work won a medal and was then bought by the Italian state. In the work, the vogue for Orientalism which had spread among artists who wanted to free themselves from the conventions of Western art is apparent, as is the influence of the Byzantine mosaics Klimt had seen in Ravenna in 1903.