Nineteenth-century Romantics, who concocted the notion of artists as misunderstood loners, visionaries, and geniuses fated to lifelong suffering, also produced innumerable portraits to venerate the painters, writers, sculptors, and musicians they mythologized. In The Image as Homage: Portrait of the Artist, the Smart Museum assembles three dozen such works, some worshipful tributes to artistic ancestors, others affectionate gifts to friends.

Paul-Cesar Helleu, once famous for his paintings of beautiful women and Grand Central Station's astrological ceiling decoration, adopted James McNeill Whistler's drypoint method for an 1897 portrait of the American artist. In 1885 painter and lithographer Henri Fantin-Latour commemorated Les Miserables writer Victor Hugo with an image not of the man but of his grave, over which two robed figures mourn. Etcher Axel Herman Haig remembered John Dryden with an image of a couple transfixed before the poet's bust, which crowns his tomb at Westminster Abbey. Not long after he met Stephane Mallarme in 1891, painter Paul Gauguin paid tribute to the symbolist poet in a portrait that combined etching, drypoint, and engraving—a mixture so complicated that Gauguin had to seek technical advice from fellow artists. And 400 years after Albrecht Durer's death, Louis Corvath based his 1920 depiction of him on the Renaissance painter and engraver's own Self-Portrait at 28.

Curated by Smart Museum Mellon curator Anne Leonard, the exhibit runs through April 8.


Photos: Félix Vallotton, To Ibsen (A Ibsen), 1894, woodcut (top); Anders Zorn, Prince Paul Troubetzkoy I (sculpting a bust), 1908, etching.

February 21, 2007