In this scholarly lecture, Professor Sura Levine, the Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies at Hampshire College, will examine ways that Belgian artists rendered the industrial landscapes of the Borinage and the pays noir (the areas near Charleroi, Mons, and Liège) in the period from c. 1880 to 1920. If, in 1891 Constantin Meunier opined in a letter to his friend, Edmond Picard, the lawyer, future parliamentarian, and art collector, “the art buying public does not find this subject pleasant enough,” a group of Belgian artists persisted, nonetheless, in creating paintings, etchings, and sculptures of the industrial world. The most famous of these artists was Meunier, whose œuvre contains hundreds of paintings, drawings, etchings, and sculptures depicting the ravaged landscapes and peoples of Belgium’s coal mining and metallurgical regions. Following his lead, painters including Pierre Paulus de Châtelet, Armand Rassenfosse, Félicien Rops, Cécile Douard, and Evert Larock, and photographers including Gustave Marissiaux and Léonard Misonne, all created images that helped to forge an identity for the Belgian industrial expansion of the late nineteenth century. Concentrated mainly in what was then called the Walloon (French-speaking) region, the images are, at once, a kind of celebration of, and direct commentary on industry as they present the utter devastation of the landscape and the backbreaking labor associated with that landscape.
Sura Levine is Dean of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies and Professor of Art History at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. A specialist of nineteenth-century painting and sculpture in Belgium and France, she also teaches courses on visual culture, art and the Holocaust, artists’ books and bibliophilia, and art history and popular culture. Her publications include the forthcoming essay on the large-scale collecting of Meunier’s sculptures by Carl Jacobsen, heir of the Carlsberg Brewery and first director of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen and an essay on Meunier’s Zola Monument in Paris. Her previous publications include essays on the development of Meunier’s labor imagery for the 2014 retrospective of this artist in Brussels, and “Pauvre Belgique: Collecting Practices and Belgian Art in and Outside of Belgium” for the A New Key. Modern Belgian Art from the Simon Collection (McMullen Museum of Art, 2007). She holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Chicago.
Free; open to the public; please RSVP at http://bit.ly/2v35X4i; seats limited