The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College announces its acquisition of Hercules and the Stymphalian Birds, a painting by renowned 19th century French artist Gustave Moreau.
Moreau was trained as an academic history painter but evolved into a very idiosyncratic and personal presenter of standard historical and literary subjects. “His paintings have a very strong spiritual aspect to them and many are technically very highly wrought, the artist often returning to the same painting over the course of years to add to the richly encrusted surfaces,” says James Mundy, the Anne Hendricks Bass director of the Art Center.
Moreau was always interested in the labors of Hercules. In Hercules and the Stymphalian Birds the hero is dressed in a lion’s skin, a bow in his hands, facing wild birds. Moreau shows the sixth of the twelve labours of Hercules, which was to kill the Stymphalian birds. Hercules could not hunt these monstrous carnivorous birds with beaks and feathers of bronze as sharp as a razor. He was saved by Athena who gave him rattlesnakes of bronze made by Hephaestus.
Mundy calls the work, “A small gem of a painting in very good condition. It fills an important gap in our collection, securing the bridge between academic tradition and the Modernism of the era following War War I. It will also serve Vassar’s curriculum by fitting into courses in the art, French, classics, and history departments.”
Professor Brian Lukacher of the Vassar Art Department concurs. “Moreau figures prominently in my teaching of nineteenth-century European art,” he says. “Moreau’s Hercules is classically posed and yet he possesses a lithe, almost frail, physicality. The blighted and yet fantastical landscape of corpses, seen in the red glare of a twilit sky, hints at a fallen world of loss and disaster, not a classical past of ideal emulation. Moreau modernizes the mythic narratives of classical heroism to express the social and psychological anxieties of late 19th-century France.”
Hercules and the Stymphalian Birds is on view now.
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections. The Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 20,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American 20th-century painters.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free and all galleries are wheelchair accessible. The Art Center is open to the public Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 10:00am–5:00pm; Thursday, 10:00am–9:00pm; and Sunday, 1:00–5:00pm. Located at the entrance to the historic Vassar College campus, the Art Center can be reached within minutes from other Mid-Hudson cultural attractions, such as Dia:Beacon, the Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt national historic sites and homes, and the Vanderbilt mansion. For additional information, the public may call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage (http://www.vassar.edu).
Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.