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New Exhibit Looks at History Through the Lens of the Great 18th Century Painters

"Eyewitness Views" shows how artists captured Europe in the 18th Century.
Mark Arehart
"Eyewitness Views" shows how artists captured Europe in the 18th Century.

Many of the greatest historical moments of the last 200 years have been captured by the camera lens. But what about events before photography was invented? A new exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art which asks just that.

"Eyewitness Views" showcases historical moments in 18th Century Europe.

Curator Betsy Wieseman thinks that’s the beauty of paintings. It was how people captured big events, through lenses of the eye not the camera.

"If you have two different photographers taking a photograph of exactly the same event, you’re going to get two very different photographic records. The same thing can be said about these paintings. Artists will interpret a scene and phrase it in their own particular way," Wieseman said.

She points to a painting of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius where the French painter Volaire depicts the great volcano erupting in all its fury, with half a dozen onlookers casually taking in the show.

“With their obedient dog who does not seem to be barking or running away as any sensible dog would.”

The exhibition is on display through May 20.

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Mark has been a host, reporter and producer at several NPR member stations in Delaware, Alaska, Washington and Kansas. His reporting has taken him everywhere from remote islands in the Bering Sea to the tops of skyscrapers overlooking Puget Sound. He is a diehard college basketball fan who enjoys taking walks with his dog, Otis.