The Bruce Museum is participating in a cooperative project with six other museums in Fairfield and Westchester counties:
The Bruce Museum is participating in a cooperative project with six other museums in Fairfield and Westchester counties: exploring the Seven Deadly Sins, which have played a significant role in theology, literature, and art since the Middle Ages.
Pride is the subject of the Bruce exhibit. The other participating museums are:
• Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum: Sloth (through October 18)
• Hudson River Museum: Envy (September 26)
• Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art: Lust (July 26)
• Katonah Museum of Art: Gluttony (October 10)
• Neuberger Museum of Art: Greed (October 11)
• Wave Hill: Wrath (September 7)
On display at the Bruce are 48 works — master prints, drawings, paintings, photographs, rare books, and objects — demonstrating the breadth and endurance of imagery relating to pride, the mother of all sins and the one from which all others arise. A video installation imagines how several Brueghel characters would behave. The oldest object on view is an Albrecht Durer woodcut dating from 1498; the newest are two contemporary graphics dated 2014.
Among the artists represented are Honore Daumier, Paul Cadmus, Thomas Cole, Aubrey Beardsley, Thomas Nast, James Tissot, and James Ensor, but many of the artists will be new to viewers. The works come from several private and museum collections and contemporary artists.
At the Bruce, pride is explored in eight gallery sections – seven dealing with different ways or places it can manifest itself or be portrayed, and one countering them with humility. The exhibition puts the concept of pride into historical context and raises questions about moralizing: At what point do we cross the line between healthy self-esteem and arrogant self-aggrandizement?
The first section is Pride in the Scriptures. There are many biblical stories about the ruinous outcomes of prideful behavior. The most grievous form of pride in the Bible is hubris, or the arrogant desire to be God-like. One of the works here is Temptation of Man (1604), an engraving by Jan Pietersz Saenredam. It depicts the fateful moment of Adam and Eve’s arrogance in disobeying God.
Next is a section representing classical portrayals of pride in the Renaissance and later. Artists frequently explored pride through myths about classical figures who were arrogant and subsequently fell from grace. Icarus, a 1558 engraving by Hendrick Goltzius, portrays his fall from the sky after misreading his ability to defy gravity.
Emblems or recognizable symbols were used starting in medieval times to represent each of the Seven Deadly Sins. Pride has traditionally been personified by a vain woman who is attended by a flamboyant peacock. Several examples are in the third section, including an 1886 oil painting by Gabriel Schachinger. His Sweet Reflections could be a condemnation of vanity or celebration of beauty.
Another section of the exhibit looks at male vanity. Here we see one of Honore Daumier’s most biting caricatures, an 1834 lithograph showing the editor of a French newspaper as a haughty old woman at the theater.
Landscape with Tower in Ruin (1839), and oil painting by Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School, depicts a decaying building to evoke the fall of a once-strong civilization.
“Pride” is on view until October 18. Museum hours are 10 to 5 Tuesday to Saturday and 1 to 5 Sunday. For information, call 203-869-0376 or visit www.brucemuseum.org. Docent tours are held Tuesdays at 1:30 and Fridays at 12:30.