European Painting and Sculpture

The Holy Family with the Infant St John and Two Angels
Lubin Baugin (French, 1612-1663), The Holy Family with the Infant St. John and Two Angels, 17th century, oil on panel. Acquired with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Raclin, 1991.027

The Museum’s holdings of European painting and sculpture offer visitors a view into the history of Western civilization from about 1100 until 1900.  The lives of the aristocracy, the middle class, and the poor are on display.  How they worshipped, what they wore, where they worked, and the stories they told can be found in the galleries.  

Especially noteworthy are the Kress Collection of Italian renaissance and baroque art and the Noah L. and Muriel S. Butkin Collection, the strength of which are prime examples of French academic art.

In 2013 the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century galleries were reinstalled focusing on the strengths of the collection. French art of the “long” nineteenth century (1789–1914) is well represented on the University’s campus. Many of the artists featured here belonged to the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts). Studying their art contributes to our understanding of the social and political structures that underpin cultural production.

A rich collection of oil sketches offers visitors a glimpse into the rigors of academic practice and illustrates the sketch aesthetic that opened the way for greater abstraction and expression in the decades before World War I.

meunier_2_Constantin Meunier (Belgian, 1831–1905), Landscape with Factory, 1886, oil on panel. Gift of Mr. John D. Reilly ’63, 2013.039.001

Constantin Meunier, Landscape with Factory, 1886

Meunier was keenly interested in the contemporary experience of the Belgian working class. After cofounding the anti-academic Free Society of Fine Arts in 1868, he spent two decades traveling throughout the industrial regions of southern Belgium painting factories and the human labor that powered them. His bleak industrial settings painted in a realist style, such as Landscape with Factory, first appeared publicly at the Ghent triennial exhibition and the Paris Salon of 1880. Meunier also created sculptures ennobling workers, the most famous of which are Monument to Labor and Monument to Émile Zola, the author of Germinal (1885), an unvarnished novel about the brutality of working in coal mines.