Taking as its focus one of The Met's most captivating masterpieces, this thematic exhibition affords a unique context for appreciating the heritage and allure of Circus Sideshow (Parade de cirque), painted in 1887–88 by Georges Seurat (1859–1891). Anchored by a remarkable group of related works by Seurat that fully illuminates the lineage of the motif in his inimitable conté crayon drawings, the presentation explores the fascination the sideshow subject held for other artists in the nineteenth century, ranging from the great caricaturist Honoré Daumier at mid-century to the young Pablo Picasso at the fin de siècle.
This rich visual narrative unfolds in a provocative display of more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints, period posters, and illustrated journals, supplemented by musical instruments and an array of documentary material intended to give a vivid sense of the seasonal fairs and traveling circuses of the day. Among the highlights is Fernand Pelez's epic Grimaces and Misery—The Saltimbanques (Petit Palais, Paris), of exactly the same date as Seurat's magisterial work and, with its lifesize performers aligned in friezelike formation across a 20-foot stage, a match for his ambition.
The exhibition is made possible by the Janice H. Levin Fund, the Gail and Parker Gilbert Fund, and an Anonymous Foundation