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Terror and tragedy are widely considered entirely disagreeable in principle. But audiences have for millennia taken pleasure in the pain of narrative spectacles in the arts. Fear is popular because it arouses curiosity in addition to revulsion. So, too, does the assemblage of Western works from the 16th to 20th centuries in “Fear in Painting.”

“Kowai-e: Fear in Painting” was the first of five publications on the theme by a scholar of German literature, Kyoko Nakano. It and its successors enjoyed tremendous commercial success and ended up becoming an eight-part series produced by NHK Educational TV. The present exhibition is the 10-year anniversary of that first book, one that addressed revered art works like Diego Velazquez’s “Las Meninas” (1656) and Matthias Grunewald’s “Isenheim Altarpiece” (1512-16). Though much of what is exhibited in the present show is more minor by comparison because of travel restrictions and prohibitive expenses, even just exploring the architectural geometries of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s prints, or Francisco Goya’s dark etchings, is time and money well spent.

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