A Particular Beauty: 19th-Century French Art at the McNay

March 13–June 16, 2024

Located in the Hamon Galleries

A Particular Beauty: 19th-Century French Art at the McNay

March 13–June 16, 2024

Located in the Hamon Galleries

In the opening to his 1863 manifesto, “The Painter of Modern Life,” the French art critic and essayist Charles Baudelaire urges his readers to embrace the aesthetics of a “particular beauty, the beauty of circumstance and the sketch of manners.” One may also consider a “particular” beauty to be one that is distinct, individual, or subjective. Indeed, the historical arc of nineteenth-century French art has been a specific one, one reflecting the cultural and political positions of white male artists. While the long nineteenth century witnessed cultural advances, including the manufacturing of the first steam engine connecting two international European capitals, the invention of photography, industrialization, increased globalism, and the use of electric lighting, the era was also tarnished by colonial operations, pseudoscientific constructions of race, pollution, and labor exploitation.

A Particular Beauty: 19th-Century French Art at the McNay, reflects upon whom the nineteenth-century European art historical canon has traditionally represented and served. With a refreshed approach towards presenting European artworks in the McNay’s collection, the exhibition and accompanying essay confront topics on exoticism, colonialism, class, gender, ecocriticism, race, disability studies, and LBGTQ+ studies. The exhibition displays 12 paintings and works on paper from the McNay’s permanent collection by artists including Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Camille Corot, Jean-François Millet, Gustave Courbet, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, among others.

A Particular Beauty: 19th-Century French Art at the McNay is curated by Noelle Yongwei Barr, Semmes Foundation Intern in Museum Studies.

Image credit: Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917), Seated Dancer, ca. 1885. Charcoal and chalk on paper. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Bequest of Marion Koogler McNay, 1950.31.

WATCH: Curator Walkthrough | Noelle Yongwei Barr: A Particular Beauty

Noelle Yongwei Barr, Semmes Foundation Intern in Museum Studies, examines nineteenth-century European artworks from the McNay’s permanent collection, delving into topics on exoticism, colonialism, class, gender, ecocriticism, race, disability studies, and LBGTQ+ studies.

A Particular Beauty: 19th-Century French Art at the McNay Mini-Catalog

This mini-catalog, authored by the curator Noelle Yongwei Barr, provides further context about the exhibition, information on artwork from the McNay’s permanent collection, and further reading material.

Enhance Your Visit

Audio Descriptions

Engage with the artwork at a deeper level through audio descriptions. Available in both English and Spanish, these descriptions offer fascinating insights into four carefully selected objects from the exhibition.

The audio descriptions are also available on our new digital guide on the free Bloomberg Connects app.

English

Spanish

Touch Object: Camille Pissarro’s Haymakers Resting (1891)

Although touching artwork in the galleries is not permitted, visitors are encouraged to interact with a specially designed touch object inspired by Camille Pissarro’s Haymakers Resting (1891). Created by K-12 Engagement Educator Juan Zavala Castro, this tactile reproduction offers a unique opportunity to explore the materiality and texture of the original painting.

Special thanks to Jenny Salinas and Christian Sanchez of the San Antonio Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas for producing the in-gallery braille label.

A Particular Beauty is a participant in the 2024 French Cultures Festival, running from March 20 – April 20, 2024. Visit the official French Cultures Festival website for more information about upcoming events.