Musée de Valence

The Universe without Man

The arts in search of other worlds

Curator: Thomas Schlesser

The exhibition The Universe without Man, which will be presented in spring-summer 2023 at the museum, takes up the challenge of showing how artists have developed, from the 18th century to today, visions of a humanity expelled from their homes, shaken in its certainties of centrality, relativized to the benefit of other components of the world: the living, whether plant, animal, mineral, etc. 

We owe the expression "the universe without man" to Charles Baudelaire in 1859. The poet thus designated and deplored the tendency that certain artists of his time had to concentrate exclusively on nature and its elements - plants, seas , skies, animals... In its viewfinder, realists like Gustave Courbet, but also Troyon or Daubigny, as well as the pioneers of photography: so many actors that we will find in the exhibition thanks to exceptional loans, including the Musée d'Orsay.  More generally, the exhibition recounts a decentering of the gaze by bringing together paintings, drawings, films and installations, from the 18th century to the present day, which deviate from human representation, focal length and scale. We will therefore see spectacular catastrophes (The Eruption of Vesuvius by Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes), expeditions into unexplored spaces (Les Glaciers, Kara sea by Alexandre Borisoff), depopulated cities (Nicolas Moulin), galaxies abstract (Hans Hartung) or even robotic fantasies (Gloria Friedman). 

The exhibition focuses on contemporary themes and their related anxieties such as the pandemic context and its confinements, nuclear risks and the environmental cause. Nevertheless, they also seek to offer new perspectives and "future valleys", both inaccessible and promising, with a cosmic, telluric and poetic finale around Claude Monet, Anna-Eva Bergman, Joan Mitchell and Cécile Beau.

Musée de Valence

From 13 May 2023 to 17 September 2023
Image for The Universe without Man
Artwork(s) loaned
  • The Wave

    Gustave Courbet (1819—1877)

    The Wave 1871-73
    Oil on canvas
  • Landscape with River, Champrosay

    Eugène Delacroix (1798—1863)

    Landscape with River, Champrosay c. 1850
    Oil on canvas
    Former Edgar Degas Collection
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art New-York 1997-1998 « The Private Collection of Edgar DEGAS »
  • Mystic landscape

    Charles-Marie Dulac (1866—1898)

    Mystic landscape 1894
    Pastel on green paper
    Musée d'Orsay « Joris-Karl Huysmans critique d’art. De Degas à Grünewald » 2019 - 2020
  • Guano

    Judit Reigl (1923—2020)

    Guano 1958
    Oil on canvas
    Former Judit Reigl Collection
  • Guano

    Judit Reigl (1923—2020)

    Guano 1958-1962
    Oil on canvas