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Release: March 26, 1999

An exhibition of work by Theophile Bra will be on view at UI Museum of Art

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- "The Drawing Speaks: Works by Theophile Bra," an exhibition of works by the 19th-century French artist, will be on view at the University of Iowa Museum of Art Saturday, April 3 through Sunday, May 30 in the Carver gallery.

Art historian Jacques de Caso will give a lecture on the exhibition at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 13 in the museum. This event is free and open to the public.

A sculptor most renowned for his portraits and civic and religious monuments, Bra also made drawings to express his dreams and evoke a Christian mysticism. A contemporary of William Blake, Bra conceived of these drawings as prophetic works. Many of them are images merged with sacred texts and notes concerning Bra's philosophical and mystical beliefs.

Bra's drawings have been preserved in the Municipal Library of Douai, France, since 1851, but have never been revealed to the public. This exhibition marks the first time they have ever been on view.

Bra was born in Douai in 1797. As a young man he worked as a sculptor's apprentice in the studios of his father and grandfather, and later studied art at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and anatomy at La Saltpetriere hospitals. Bra won the Second Prize of Rome in sculpture in 1818, but in 1826, a year after receiving the Legion of Honor award, he experienced a severe psychological collapse and a series of personal tragedies that would profoundly affect the rest of his life.

Using his drawings to explore these personal crises, Bra created a body of work possessing a sense of immediacy, gesture and experimentation closer in spirit to the work of 20th-century artists like Jackson Pollock and Max Ernst than to that of his contemporaries.

De Caso said, "Bra returned to a state of uncurbed expression, a state inherent to drawing when line seeks to evoke an idea rather than an illusionistic recreation of the world. These drawings are unprecedented in the 19th century. 'Abstract' compositions unrelated to his sculpted oeuvre, they designate Bra as one of the most original minds of the Romantic era."

This exhibition was organized by the Menil Collection, Houston, Texas.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Public metered parking is available in UI parking lots across from the museum on Riverside Drive and just north of the museum.

For information on the UI Museum of Art, visit on the World Wide Web. Information is available on other UI arts events at