Beyond the Bubble: Art as Time Travel

by Caela Murphy | 2/24/13 11:00pm

Social media outlets were bombarded last week with outrage over the death of Matthew Crawley in the season finale of "Downton Abbey" last Sunday. The connection that fans had forged with the principle character is a testament to the series' ability to take the lives of a fictional aristocratic family in early 20th century Yorkshire and make them both relatable and relevant to our own.

Both "Downton" and "Boardwalk Empire," set in Atlantic City during Prohibition, were in the running for best drama series at this year's Golden Globes, reflecting a recent inclination toward historical fiction.

The best picture category was stocked with films such as "Lincoln," "Django Unchained," "Zero Dark Thirty" and the ultimate prizewinner, "Argo," all of which were in the running for the top Oscar as well. Each of these acclaimed films blends historical accuracy with creative artistic elements, and movie audiences appear to be enchanted this year by the prospect of being transported back in time.

Away from the screen, historical influence also holds strong.

"Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity," which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last Tuesday, features 79 Impressionist paintings and 14 dresses that, paired together, replicate the everyday upper-middle class lifestyle of mid-19th century France.

The New York Public Library's current exhibit, "Visualizing Emancipation," also reveals history through stories captured in pre- and post-Civil War photographs. The show, on display until March 16, features various images of black slaves, workers and soldiers, and gives museum patrons a more personal and intimate perception of the lives of those who fought and died for freedom.