Sex, violence, horror, period costume dramas, bucolic idylls, terrifying cataclysms of nature, and grisly recent events. No, that's not, as you might think, a list of current offerings at the movies. Rather, these are subjects that visitors were likely to encounter at the Salon in Paris or the Royal Academy in London in the 1820s and 1830s. Present-day viewers can discover them at the Metropolitan Museum of Art until the beginning of January in "Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism," organized by the Tate, London. [1] While it could be argued that in the early nineteenth century the large public exhibitions held at the Salon and the Royal Academy served many of the functions that films do now, the point of departure for the thought-provoking show at the Met is not the role of the sensational in art at the time, but the paradoxical fact that what would now be called...


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