Tea and Morphine – 19th century women often skipped the tea

Exhibition exposes a darker side of 19th century women.

  The Hammer Museum presents Tea and Morphine: Women in Paris, 1880 to 1914 on view January 26 – May 18, 2014.

While women were often exalted and idealized in French graphic arts of the period, the exhibition explores how grittier images, whether of morphine addicts or prostitutes, began to dramatize a more nuanced and often troubling range of female experience.

tea and morphine

Whether as angelic creatures or exotic lures, women filled the imaginations of artists and constituted the great subject of fin-de-siècle art. Those who had leisure time were depicted relaxing with an afternoon cup of tea, as seen in a Mary Cassatt etching, whereas other artists portrayed the drug addiction common to women facing harsh economic realities. These extremes, and the positions in between, set the parameters for the exhibition of approximately 100 works, which includes prints as well as rare books and ephemera (such as menus, theater programs, and music scores). This array of objects gives the exhibition an intimate quality, revealing much about how women–and men–lived their lives during a time of great social upheaval and artistic innovation.

Tea and Morphine features 100 works from a wide range of artists, including Edgar Degas, Odilon Redon, Mary Cassatt, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Alfredo Muller and more providing a cross section of the Parisian art world that reflects the stylistic diversity of the era. The exhibition juxtaposes established names with prolific but less-remembered figures whose diverse sensibilities gave the period’s artworks and advertisements their sensual appeal. It includes prominent Impressionist and Symbolist painters and members of the Nabi group alongside graphic designers and illustrators who were regular contributors to such newly established print journals as l’Estampe originale and L’Estampe moderne.

tea and morphine

Tea and Morphine is co-curated by Cynthia Burlingham, Director, Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts and Deputy Director, Curatorial Affairs at the Hammer Museum, and Victoria Dailey, Independent Curator. This will be the first, large-scale exhibition of the Elisabeth Dean Collection since a 1986 exhibition at the Fresno Art Museum, when the collection was only six years old. Tea and Morphine will be the public’s first opportunity to appreciate the growth of the Elisabeth Dean Collection and to understand the scope of this important body of work.

 HAMMER MUSEUM INFORMATION: For current program and exhibition information, call 310-443-7000 or visit www.hammer.ucla.edu. Hours: Tuesday–Friday 11am–8pm; Saturday & Sunday 11am–5pm; closed Mondays, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Eugene Grasset, La Morphinomane [The Morphine Addict], 1897. Color lithograph, 22 ½ x 16 7/8 inches (57.2 x 42.9 cm). Collection UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum. Promised Gift of Elisabeth Dean. Photograph by Brian Forrest.
Paul Albert Besnard, Morphinomanes ou Le Plumet [Morphine Addicts or The Plume], 1887. Etching, drypoint and aquatint, 12 ¾ x 17 in.