Frederic Leighton's Crenaia, the river nymph

Frederic Leighton’s Crenaia, the river nymph

For lovers of art who would like a change of exhibition pace, Paris currently offers something very original—unless you have spent time in England—as well as very appealing: an exhibition of art from Victorian England. Would it be an extension of that era’s morality? The answer, provided by this exhibition of works of English artists of that age (drawn from the collection of the Spanish-Mexican collector, Perez Simon), which is now on display at the Jacquemart Andre Museum in Paris, until 20 January 2014, is: no.

I am torn in trying to provide an English translation of the title of the exhibition. After considerable debate, I venture that it is: Desires and voluptuousness.

Who would have guessed that an era remembered for prudery and stern morality could nurture and sustain artists whose vision exalted a tangibly voluptuous ideal of feminine beauty, and evoked dreamy visions of distant eras such as classical Greece and Rome, and the medieval and Gothic worlds? Such is conveyed forcefully in this unique exhibition, which presents works of 15 British painters of the Victorian era, including some of its masters: Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema, Sir Frederic Leighton, Edward Burne-Jones, Albert Moore, as well as the pre-Raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

As is so often the case at the Jacquemart Andre Museum, this is a very satisfying exhibition that opens horizons effortlessly: you can see the entire exhibition comfortably in about an hour, using the audio guide. Buying your tickets on-line in advance is not essential (unless you plan a Sunday or holiday afternoon visit), but the precaution is painless and often of great value.

http://www.musee-jacquemart-andre.com/en/events/exhibition-desirs-et-volupte-victorian-masterpieces