The Circus is in Town!

Have you ever wanted to run away and join the circus? I haven’t. Ever. But I am fascinated by the circus lifestyle: the animals, the costumes, the travel—the entire spectacle.

One more question. Are you familiar with the fauvist movement? The fauvists were a short-lived and loose group of modern artists in the early twentieth-century, who painted with strong colors and contours as opposed to their impressionist predecessors.

The UMFA is currently exhibiting George Rouault: Circus of the Shooting Star. Rouault, a fauvist painter, depicted the circus with those energetic strokes and strong colors. And since the real circus isn’t coming to town for a while, so get your fix up at the museum.

And if you’re expecting a routine, quiet and static visit, think again. Just read this excerpt from Lewis Crawford’s preview of the exhibit in this month’s issue of 15 Bytes:

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the traditional circus was one of the most loved forms of family entertainment. Since then, the fascination with clowns, acrobats and lion tamers has paraded its way out of the mainstream, only to be replaced by movies, television and video games. The Utah Museum of Fine Arts is hoping to bring a bit of the classic circus magic back into family entertainment with the exhibition, Georges Rouault: Cirque de l’Etoile Filante (Circus of the Shooting Star).

Our collective western subconscious somehow dictates that we experience fine art museums the same way we experience church; walk in, calm ourselves, slowly and pensively walk around, and then leave. It is quiet and meditative. The circus, in contrast, is a loud experience, filled with excitement and fun. The UMFA seems to understand this dichotomy and resolves this by showcasing the exhibit in the Emma Eccles Jones Education Center. It is a larger, open space designed for interactivity. When walking into the room, a viewer notices three things: the large red wall hung with monochromatic prints; color images hanging on facing walls flanking the red one; and a love seat, chair and coffee table strategically placed in front of a puppet theater near the middle of the room. Behind the little theater is a table where kids can color their own Rouault circus performer puppets. The museum also provides an interactive guide for kids if coloring and puppetry is not on their minds. Jenny Woods, UMFA Museum Services Liaison, organized the exhibition stating she wanted the experience to be a great opportunity for families to engage in artwork by an important artist, but more important to have a good time.

One of Rouault’s passions in life was the circus and the images for this exhibition are from his book, Cirque de l’Etoile Filante (Circus of the Shooting Star), an homage to circus performers. He started work on it in 1926, publishing it 12 years later.

To read more, click here.

Laura Durham is assistant editor at 15 Bytes, Utah's Art magazine, and is a contributor for Salt Lake magazine.