Old Masters to Monet: Three Centuries of French Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum at the Michele & Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts

Old Masters to Monet: Three Centuries of French Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum

December 13, 2011–April 29, 2012 D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts » Second Floor

Michele & Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Second Floor

An exhibition of 50 outstanding masterpieces from the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum. The works provide a history of French painting, ranging from the 17th through the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. All the major types of painting are represented, including religious and mythological subjects, portraiture, landscape, still life, and genre.

Old Masters to Monet begins with the great 17th-century masters who went to Rome and absorbed Italian ideas of beauty, classical sculpture, and ideal landscape. Claude Lorrain’s “Landscape with St. George and the Dragon,” commissioned by Cardinal Fausto Poli in 1641, is one of the artist’s most important paintings in this country.

The 18th-century works present a rich tapestry of life in France during the Rococo age. There are several scenes and portraits of aristocrats, including the “Portrait of the Duchesse de Polignac” by the most important woman painter, Madame Vigée-Lebrun. Genre scenes of this era had a decidedly risqué bent and on view will be humorous aspects of life by Greuze, Boucher, and Boilly. A more serious approach is evidenced in the “Still Life” by Chardin and the charming family pictures by Lépicié and Hallé. The change in style brought about by the French Revolution is evident in the impressive composition designed by Jacques Louis David, and the creation of a new aristocracy is presented by the two brilliant paintings by Ingres.

A series of diverse trends unfolds during the 19th century. There is the vigorous Romanticism of Géricault and Delacroix; pastoral and realistic landscapes by Corot, Dupré, Courbet, and Rousseau; the academicism of Bouguereau, Vibert, and Motte. In addition there is the realism of Bonvin and Ribot. Portraiture is represented by the surprisingly early portrait of a young woman by Millet.

Perhaps the most exciting group of works in the exhibition is the selection of the Impressionists, and no picture better captures the essence of this popular school than Renoir's famous painting of his friend Monet at work in the garden of their rented home at Argenteuil in 1873. Also included are fine examples by their colleagues Manet, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas, Cézanne and Monet himself.

The final group of paintings by the younger Post-Impressionist generation includes Louis Anquetin's “Avenue de Clichy,” a view of a Parisian boulevard on a rainy evening that had a profound effect on Vincent van Gogh, whose own powerful “Self-Portrait” of about 1887 is included. Finally there are works by Ranson, Vuillard, and Bonnard who focus on intimate interiors.


  • $10 adults, $5 for children ages 12-17, in addition to museum admission. Under 12 free with a paid adult.
  • Special exhibition combo with Frogs: $12.50 adults, $7.50 ages 12-17, $5 ages 3-12 (with a paid adult), in addition to museum admission

Funded in part by the Michele and Donald D’Amour Fund.

This exhibition was organized by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut.

Image (above): Claude Monet, French, 1840-1926; The Beach at Trouville, 1870; oil on canvas, 22 x 25 5/8 in.; The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1948.116