Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, ‘plein air’ painting, Impressionism – these are still the main stylistic labels attached in the German-speaking world to French painting of the 19th century. The artists working in those styles – figures such as Géricault, Delacroix, Corot, Daumier, Millet, Courbet, Manet, Sisley, Monet and Renoir – turned their backs on the officially sanctioned painting of the era, with its academic and neoclassicist style. Yet despite their revolutionary approaches, many of them still adhered to tradition. Highly controversial in their day, these artists are now hailed worldwideas the ‘precursors of Modernism’. But 19th-century French painting offers a profusion of other equally important artists who, at that time, enjoyed greater recognition and the plaudits of art critics and audiences alike. Although indebted to traditional painting techniques, artists such as Delaroche, Couture, Meissonier, Cabanel, Gérôme and Bouguereau were in some cases highly innovative. In the canon of French painting from that period laid down in the German-speaking countries at the beginning of the 20th century, however, these outstanding artists came to be sidelined.
For the first time in Switzerland, the exhibition brings together these various and hotly debated approaches in French painting to create a rich and diverse panorama of the era’s genres.