James Hyman Gallery is delighted to participate in its second year at Paris Photo, Grand Palais, Paris from the 14-18 November. This year, James Hyman presents a specially curated exhibition entitled 'Monuments and Maidens'.
Monuments and Maidens takes its title from Marina Warner's award-winning study of the allegorical meanings of the female form, and is partially inspired by her walk through central Paris and evocation of the richness of the city's sculpture, including the Tuileries gardens and the sculpted pavilions of the old and new Louvre.
This exhibition, similarly, takes as its starting point the allegorised female form and juxtaposes this with the evolving language of Modernism, which would soon push away such symbolic programmes, although not their underlying ideologies.
Appropriately, at the centre of Monuments and Maidens is perhaps the most voyeuristic early photograph in existence and the basis for one of the greatest realist statements in modern art: the stereoscopic image that was Courbet's photographic source for l'Origine du Monde. The exhibition also includes near-contemporary photographs of allegorised sculptures from the Tuileries gardens, as photographed by Charles Negre.
As Marina Warner demonstrates, to allegorise the female form is to de-individualise it. In contrast to public sculptures that depict specific male figures, in monumentalising the female figure portraiture was rarely the intention.
Most dramatically and comprehensively of all, Monuments and Maidens presents large photographs and albums by the greatest architectural photographer of the nineteenth century, Edouard Baldus. Containing over five-hundred photographs, these rare albums focus on the proliferation of sculpture, principally allegorical as well as decorative, on the new Louvre, which led a commentator of the day to describe the ensemble as "haute patisserie".
This exhibition contextualises and contrasts these allegorised views of the female body in two ways. Firstly, through juxtaposition with a young woman's view of her own body, as seen in the rare vintage photographs of Francesca Woodman. Following the recent exhibitions of Woodman's photographs at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim, New York, we are delighted to be presenting rare vintage works from a private collection.
Secondly, this exhibition explores the reductive formalism of Modernism, which would soon strip away such allegory and narrative to prioritise shape, form, geometry and symmetry. Specifically, Monuments and Maidens addresses the ways in which Modernist strategies developed in the work of one of the greatest early photographers, Gustave Le Gray and that of his distinguished atelier. Coinciding with the Petit Palais's wonderful exhibition Gustave Le Gray. Modernisme et Modernite , Monuments and Maidens presents Le Gray alongside students such as John Beasley Greene, Henri Le Secq, Charles Negre, Emile Pecarrere and Auguste Salzmann.
Monuments and Maidens is an opportunity to explore this rich subject and to acquire museum- quality works by some of the greatest photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
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