At the start of the 19th century, the only colours accepted in sculpture were the pure white of marble or the monochrome of metals like bronze, with their classical associations of purity. Yet after the discovery by archaeologists that classical architecture and sculpture had, in fact, been painted polychrome, French sculptures saw an opportunity to explore an unfamiliar genre. They utilised a huge diversity of materials: painted waxes, assemblages of variously coloured marbles, gilded and silver bronzes, glass paste, and enamelled sandstone suddenly became the language of a whole mode of French sculpture, testifying to the breadth of artists’ experimentation in the second half of the end of the century.
The exhibition presents a selective overview of this very particular aspect of 19th-century art through an ensemble of around 50 works from the collections of the Musée d’Orsay, moving from Second Empire sculptors such as Charles Cordier to Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas. Find out more about the ‘In Colour’ exhibition from the Musée d’Orsay’s website.
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