When this book was first presented to me, the instinctive reaction, of course, was to think of E.M. Forster’s Room with a View, with Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own not far behind; some might call it my predictable train of thought. Those two writers, coming at the end of the long nineteenth century, followed in the paths of countless Victorian writers who used the window as a frame of perspective. How many heroes and heroines have stepped to the window to look out on the world before life-changing events like marriage, personal tragedy, and death? As a part of architecture, it serves a specific function in this regard. The image is iconic and fixed in our Western imagination and tied to a litany of feelings and emotions.
Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century, by Sabine Rewald, accompanies an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on view until July 4. Instead of Britain, it looks east to the continent, exploring paintings and drawings by German, Danish, French, and Russian artists, both popular and lesser known. In art, the ubiquity of window imagery in the early and Romantic nineteenth century shaped the organizational approach for this study, and earlier this week, The Met posted an interview with Rewald about putting together materials for the exhibition and catalog. Understanding the scope of the project and what Rewald has accomplished is enough to look upon and wonder: does the world see as I see?
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