Philippe Mercier, The Sense of Hearing, ca. 1744-47, oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
NEW HAVEN, CT.- The Yale Center for British Art presents an innovative exhibition exploring the relationship between art and music. On view through December 31, 2006, Art & Music in Britain: Four Encounters, 1730C1900 will include more than sixty works from the Centers extensive collection, as well as period instruments from the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, and sheet music from Yales Beneicke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The Lewis Walpole Library, and Sterling Music Library. Each room of the exhibition will include a listening station where visitors can hear relevant musical selections. A lively slate of programs and musical performances will complement the exhibition.
Many have sensed the connection between art and music: the kinship between church music and a stained glass window, or the sweeping perspectives of a Romantic symphony and a panoramic landscape oil painting of the same era. Art & Music in Britain will examine four moments in British history when the conjunction of art and music took on a distinctive character.
Handels London will look at sites for viewing art and hearing musical performances around 1740. Music and Polite Society will explore the parallel roles of music and art in celebrating civility among the social elite of the eighteenth century. Romantic Landscapes will trace the responses of composer Felix Mendelssohn and painter J. M. W. Turner to a particular Scottish landscape that both visited around 1830. A final section, Aspiring to the Condition of Music, will examine the ways in which painters of the Aesthetic Movement attempted to emulate musics direct, sensory appeal. Art & Music in Britain will also consider the relationship between high and popular culture in each of the four historical moments. For example, Mendelssohn was interested in indigenous folksong and included elements of it in his Scottish works. The customs of Victorian high society provided rich fodder for satirical journals and the comic operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The exhibition includes works by artists J. M. W. Turner, William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson, Johann Zoffany, and George Romney. Period music will be represented by the works of Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Gilbert and Sullivan.
A number of fine musical instruments, including a serpent, a hurdy-gurdy, an eighteenth-century guitar, and a square piano, will also be on view. Art & Music in Britain: Four Encounters, 1730C1900 has been organized by Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, and Eleanor Hughes, Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Yale Center for British Art. Other programs include a performance of Elizabethan music set amongst art from Shakespeares time; Victorian piano music and parlor songs; a lecture by leading baroque music specialist, harpsichordist, and conductor Nicholas McGegan, with students from ISM performing arias from Handels operas and John Gays Beggars Opera; a full staging of the court masque Britannia Triumphans; and a discussion session with a major contemporary composer. All events are free and open to the public.