Vis-à-Vis: Five Centuries of Portraiture

Wednesday October 16, 2002 - Friday December 6, 2002
Vis-à-Vis: Five Centuries of Portraiture

John Wilson, Martin Luther King, Jr., 2002 Friends of the Davison Art Center funds, 2002

Organized by Wesleyan students, this exhibition included works from the 15th through 20th centuries, complemented by earlier objects from Wesleyan University's archaeological and ethnographic collections.

Regarding a 1767 portrait of himself, the French writer and critic Denis Diderot wrote: "In the course of a day, I had a hundred and one different faces...I was serene, sad, dreamy, tender, violent, impassioned, enthusiastic. But I was never as you see me there."


Anonymous (Hopi Pueblos, Arizona, 19th century),polychrome ceramic bowl, ca. 1860-1890

Vis-à-Vis explored the changing face of portraiture over five centuries. Works on view included realistic likenesses as well as allegorical and symbolic portraits by artists ranging from Goltzius to Chuck Close and Cindy Sherman. Early portraits included Cranach's engraving of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Friar (1520); Dürer'sErasmus of Rotterdam (1526); and Goya's Portrait of the Printer Cyprien Charles-Marie Nicolas Gaulon, known in only two impressions.

Rembrandt's great psychological study of the printseller Clement de Jonghe (1651); Gift of George W. Davison, 1952.


20th-century works included two woodcuts by Chuck Close, Alex(monochrome) of 1991 and Alex (color) of 1992, both monumental portraits of his mentor and fellow portrait artist, Alex Katz, as well as Jim Dine's 1985 Robe in France. The most recent work on view was John Wilson's poignant and impressive Martin Luther King, Jr. of 2002.

Also exhibited were Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints of actors, memorial portraits, and illustrations of geisha and courtesans. Among these works was a memorial portrait by Kunisada of his master Hiroshige. Objects on view from Wesleyan's archaeological collections included Pre-Columbian pottery, an Egyptian Canopic jar, and Hopi Kachina bowls from the American Southwest.

Also on view at Wesleyan from the DAC Collection in Fall 2002 was a selection of Japanese woodcuts presented at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies in the exhibitionAllegory and Allusion: Japanese Prints from the Davison Art Center, 8 October - 8 December 2002 (closed 11-15 October and 25 November - 3 December), with a gallery talk by curator Patrick Dowdey on Wednesday 16 October at 12:00 p.m.

Other works from the DAC Collection were on view from 19 September through 1 December 2002 at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum in Hartford, where 23 prints (including The Three Crosses, The Three Trees, Christ Presented to the People, and six others by Rembrandt) from the DAC were lent for the exhibition The Age of Rembrandt and Sweerts: Seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish Prints and Drawings.