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Strategic Ambiguity

"Strategic Ambiguity: The Obscure Nebulous and Vague Symbolist Prints," Curated by Carmen Vendelin, La Salle University Art Museum, December 6, 2012- March 1, 2013.

This exhibition addresses the concept of strategic ambiguity in Symbolist prints of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Included are works by artists Odilon Redon, Jan Toorop, Paul Gauguin, Maurice Denis, Édouard Vuillard, Félix Vallotton, Henri Ibels, Pierre Bonnard, Félix Buhot, Pierre Roche, Henri Martin, Armand Point, Maurice Dumont, Jeanne Jacquemin, Georges de Feure, Valère Bernard, Carlos Schwabe and others. Print techniques represented in this survey include lithography, etching, and gypsography.

The selected works demonstrate how the Symbolist fascination with ambiguity seen in their choices of subject matter (i.e. half-human, half-animal hybrids such as harpies and sphinxes, gender ambiguity and androgyny) extended to formal strategies of representation that obscure form as well as content. According to the exhibition’s curator, Carmen Vendelin, “this exhibition places Symbolist art in the context of Modernism by focusing on the ways in which artists experimented with print media and explored technical means of suggesting formal ambiguity (i.e. flattening, abstracting, obscuring) both to better match form and content and to push the boundaries of figurative art.” The exhibition also includes prints by artists not typically included in the Symbolist canon, which demonstrates the permeation of the Symbolist aesthetic more broadly at the turn of the 20th century.

This exhibition was supported in part by a grant from the International Fine Print Dealers Association, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, and The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Artworks on loan from The Zimmerli Art Museum, Ken Ratner, and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, are not included in this online exhibition.

An exhibition catalogue is available for purchase at the Museum, or online at

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