Curator’s Corner

Myth Inspiration

The turn of the century brought with it swift and brutal political upheaval and dramatic social transformation. While industry and commerce flourished and the affluence of the middle-class increased, the lower working-class, thrown off their land and into overcrowded cities, lived wretchedly. For many 19th century artists, classic myths and ancient legends were a source of inspiration, a means of escape, and a medium for expressing their fury over the great inequalities of wealth and power.

Thomas Benjamin Kennington, a notable 19th C. British artist, depicts the mythological character Pandora after opening a box (given to her by Zeus) which contained all the evils of the world. The moonlight streams through the darkened forest, offering a somber vision of a world in decay and implicitly articulating the artist’s anxieties about contemporary society.

Thomas Kennington (British – 1856-1916)

Kennington trained at several prestigious schools: the Liverpool School of Art, the Royal College of Art in London, and the Academie Julien in Paris. Exhibiting regularly at the Royal Academy, he became a respected portrait artist, painting Queen Victoria in 1898.  Passionate about social reform, he established an independent institution that provided exhibition opportunities for artists rejected and discouraged by the dictatorial Academies.

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About The Curator

Carol Seelig Eastman is the Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Knohl Collection. In this role, she passionately explores the artist’s personal, social, and political world and places their art in a meaningful historical context. Her thematic exhibitions provide visual and educational stimulation that attract and engage a diverse museum audience.