Seldom-seen Romantic's works come to Belkin Gallery

Exhibit organizers describe it as the art blockbuster of the summer.

When over 80 rarely seen works by the French Romantic painter, Theodore Gericault, go on display at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery Aug. 15, it will mark the first time the works have come to Canada.

Entitled The Alien Body: Tradition in Chaos, the show borrows pieces from both the Louvre and the Ecole des Beaux-arts in Paris.

Because the works are fragile and seldom exhibited, curators from both the Louvre and the Ecole des Beaux-arts needed to ensure the gallery's temperature controls, humidity, lighting and security was equipped to handle the display.

"It's taken three years to put this together," says Scott Watson, director and curator of the gallery.

Gericault is best known as a leader of the Romantic movement and for bringing political commentary and contemporary reality to his work.

His scenes of beggars, slave trading and hangings, express the social upheavals that marked the turn of the 18th century in Paris and London.

The exhibition will be the focus of a conference in October sponsored by the gallery and the Dept. of  Fine Arts. The gathering is expected to draw scholars from North America and Europe to discuss the significance of Gericault's work in art history.

Fine Arts head, Serge Guilbaut, and Prof. Maureen Ryan, who helped arrange for the collection to come to the gallery, will lead the conference.

The exhibition, which is sponsored by Polygon Group Ltd., The Hampton Foundation, the Vancouver Sun and the Canada-France Cultural Exchange Accord, runs until Oct. 19.