The French Revolution proved a rich subject for Finlay; he first received international attention for his guillotine installation A View to the Temple at Documenta 8 in Kassel in 1987 and thereafter the guillotine became one of the most enduring elements of his iconography.
For the artist the Revolution represented a moment of enormous political and aesthetic rupture and signalled a great moral, as well as political, leap. The period bookended by the dates in the title of this exhibition correspond with the establishment of the National Assembly and the storming of the Bastille in 1789, and the Thermidorian Reaction in 1794, which saw the arrest and execution of several of the key members of the Jacobin forces, including Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) and Louis Antoine de Saint-Just (1767-1794). This period thus encompasses extraordinary advances in secular democracy and social progress and also great bloodshed and unrest: the Enlightenment and the guillotine.’
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