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University of Oregon student curates exhibition of 1950s French artist books
This exhibition was curated by Emily Shinn as part of her terminal project as a graduate student in the University of Oregon’s Department of the History of Art and Architecture in the College of Design, under the guidance of Danielle Knapp, McCosh Associate Curator.


EUGENE, ORE.- The exhibition “Fernand Léger’s ‘Cirque’ and the ‘livre d’artiste’” will be on view from November 17, 2018 through March 22, 2019, at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus. This exhibition was curated by Emily Shinn as part of her terminal project as a graduate student in the University of Oregon’s Department of the History of Art and Architecture in the College of Design, under the guidance of Danielle Knapp, McCosh Associate Curator.

“I think the exhibition, my experience behind the scenes, and the final product open to the public, will provide a much needed example of an MA terminal project in Art History,” says Shinn. “It demonstrates the relationships possible for students between the Department of the History of Art & Architecture and the JSMA.”

On Wednesday, December 5, at 5:30 p.m., Shinn and Knapp will give a gallery talk on “Modernism in Europe and the Americas,” followed by a conversation with Associate Curator of Academic Programs and Latin American Art Cheryl Hartup about Diego Rivera (Mexican, 1886-1957) and Rufino Tamayo (Mexican, 1899-1991). This talk is free and open to the public.

Published in Paris in 1950, “Cirque” (circus) is a handmade illustrated book produced as a collaboration between French painter Fernand Léger (1881-1955) and Greek-born editor and publisher Tériade (1897-1983). It is one of twenty-seven publications conceived by Tériade between 1943 and 1975 known as livres d’artistes (artists’ books). Developed in France at the turn of the century, these finely printed, large-format books pair literary texts with original artwork from some of the twentieth century’s most prominent artists.. Cirque demonstrates Tériade’s innovations within this medium, in particular the use of lithography to produce handwritten text, and the encouragement of artists to take creative control as both illustrator and author.

“This exhibition is important for the public because it showcases a previously unseen work in the museum's permanent collection, which happens to highlight a period of the artist's oeuvre that does not get much attention,” says Shinn. The folio was gifted to the museum by Dr. Robert Leary in 2013.

Fernand Léger was a central figure of European modernism with a career spanning two continents and the first five decades of the twentieth century. He maintained aesthetic and conceptual affinity with his contemporaries as a participant in Cubism and Purism and through close friendships with poets, including Guillaume Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars. He also secured creative independence through a diverse artistic output, including painting, theater set and costume design, book illustration, public murals, and ceramic sculpture.

Léger was a productive writer, composing essays throughout his career on the themes central to his oeuvre: creative freedom and the use of color in art, machines and technological progress, the role of modern man in the modern city, and the public spectacles of theater, cinema, dance halls, and circuses. Cirque marks the transition to the final decade of his career, providing space for Léger to reflect on his experiences in New York during WWII and the thematic underpinnings of his earlier work in Paris.





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