Paris is my ...
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Paris is my Library - Drawings and Prints by Félicien Rops
10 Feb 2023 - 07 May 2023 | Special exhibition | Exhibition catalogue

Naked female bodies depicted in provocatively explicit scenes, shocking satanic rituals, imaginatively opulent sceneries: Hardly any other artist of the second half of the 19th century was as notorious and influential with his repertoire of motifs as Félicien Rops (1833-1898). Behind his superficially frivolous and obscene depictions, however, lie sharp wit, religious and social criticism as well as political satire. Since 1907, the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) of the Hamburger Kunsthalle has housed one of the most extensive German collections of works by the Belgian symbolist, acquired in 1907 from the collection of the Hamburg lawyer and art collector Johannes Mohrmann (1812-1906). Despite its size and importance, the Hamburg Rops collection, which comprises more than 250 works, is virtually unknown to this day and has never been exhibited. 

Born in Namur, Belgium, Félicien Rops is probably the most important and influential etcher of the second half of the 19th century. Active mainly in Brussels and Paris, his widely circulated prints, always known for scandal, influenced several generations of artists until after 1900, including Max Klinger, Alfred Kubin, Jeanne Mammen and Otto Dix. Rops created satirical lithographs in his younger years, but from 1860 at the latest, when he began living and working regularly in Paris, he devoted his work especially to this city, its diverse population, its debauchery and abysses. His loose lifestyle, critically eyed by the French and Belgian bourgeoisie with its double standards, and his close contacts to the literary world of the bohemians in Paris - he became friends with Charles Baudelaire, among others - made him as famous as he was infamous. Above all, Rops was highly successful as a sought-after illustrator or designer of significant frontispieces and title pages of Symbolist literature. The etchings, often described as pornography, did the rest to consolidate Rops' eccentric reputation in Europe and brought him great attention, but also much opposition.
The exhibition Paris is My Library. Drawings and Prints by Félicien Rops at the Harzen-Kabinett of the Hamburger Kunsthalle will present for the first time almost 100 sheets from the artist's extensive collection of prints and drawings. The focus will not only be on the sexually explicit depictions for which Rops was already known and infamous throughout Europe during his lifetime, but will also include his political-critical and satirical designs, works related to Symbolist literature as well as works depicting his native Flanders. A comprehensive look at his work, as the Kunsthalle's holdings allow, can exclude neither. This allows the gender roles, social relations and moral ambivalences of his time and society, so often thematised by Rops and on which he repeatedly worked throughout his life, to be revealed and critically questioned.

Editors Andreas Stolzenburg and Juliane Au | Michael Imhof Verlag | 216 pages, 1 b/w and 160 colour illustrations | Hardcover | Language German