Sunday, January 15, 2023 10am to 5pm
About this Event
See how the graphic arts inspired, shaped, and gave immediacy to new ideas in the Enlightenment era, encouraging individuals to follow their own reason when seeking to know more.
What role did drawings and prints play during the Enlightenment era, from roughly 1720 to 1800? Dare to Know explores many nuances of this complex time—when political and cultural revolutions swept across Europe and the Americas, spurring profound shifts in science, philosophy, the arts, social and cultural encounters, and our shared sense of history. Indeed, the Enlightenment itself has been described as a “revolution of the mind.” Novel concepts in every realm of intellectual inquiry were communicated not only through text and speech, but in prints and drawings that gave these ideas a visual, concrete form. They made new things visible—and familiar things visible in powerful new ways. They wielded the potential to visually articulate, reinforce, or contradict beliefs as well as biases, while also arguing for social action and imagining new realities.
German philosopher Immanuel Kant, in response to a 1784 journal article asking “What Is Enlightenment?,” argued that the Enlightenment’s main impulse was to “dare to know!”: to pursue knowledge for oneself, without relying on others to interpret facts and experiences. But is this ever truly possible?
Bringing together 150 prints, drawings, books, and other related objects from Harvard as well as collections in the United States and abroad, this exhibition offers provocative insights into both the achievements and the failures of a period whose complicated legacies reverberate still today. Dare to Know asks new and sometimes uncomfortable questions of the so-called age of reason, inviting visitors to embrace the Enlightenment’s same spirit of inquiry—to investigate, to persuade, and to imagine.
Free Harvard ID holders (plus one guest)