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Art history doctoral student curates 'Electric Paris' exhibition

​Charles Courtney Curran (American, 1861-1942), Paris at Night, 1889, oil on panel. Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1989.12

​University of Delaware graduate student Margarita Karasoulas is the curator of “Electric Paris,” an art exhibition that a recent New York Times article said “examines the City of Light through the lens of nighttime illumination … as gaslight supplanted oil lamps, and electric lighting superseded gas.”

Encompassing about 50 works — paintings, drawings, prints and photographs — from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the exhibition at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, runs through Sept. 4.

Karasoulas, a doctoral candidate in UD’s Department of Art History, said the show focuses on the “often overlooked role” that artificial lighting played in works by artists of the time.

“Scholars have tended to focus on how the Impressionists and their contemporaries investigated the effects of natural light, and specifically the color and atmospheric effects of sunlight,” she said. “This exhibition focuses instead on artificial lighting, and how nocturnal brightness came to be seen as the defining feature of the city’s technological modernity.”

The show is organized in sections, showing nighttime outdoor settings, indoor scenes in both private homes and in such entertainment venues as cabarets and dance halls, and scenes focused on the various types of street lighting that Karasoulas said defined Paris as a modern city.

She described the exhibition as fundamentally about technological change, as methods of artificial lighting improved and expanded, and how art and culture reflected that change. For everyday residents, she said, the introduction of gas and electric lighting transformed Paris and other cities.

Karasoulas, who is planning for a career as a curator in museums, was working in the Bruce Museum in 2012-13 as the Zvi Grunberg Resident Fellow. Before leaving to enroll in UD’s doctoral program, she and the museum’s deputy director, Susan Ball, came up with the idea for “Electric Paris.”

The exhibition is an expanded version of one organized at the Clark Art Institute in 2013 by S. Hollis Clayson, who served as adviser to the current show at the Bruce.

“Electric Paris” includes works by Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Charles Courtney Curran and many more French, American and other European artists.

A related exhibit in the museum’s Science Gallery focuses on electricity.

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Art history graduate student Margarita Karasoulas is the curator of “Electric Paris,” an art exhibition recently featured in a "New York Times" article.
​Art history graduate student Margarita Karasoulas is the curator of “Electric Paris,” an exhibition focusing on the role artificial lighting played in the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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  • Department of Art History
  • University of Delaware
  • 318 Old College
  • Newark, DE 19716 USA
  • Phone: 302-831-8415