Old Masters to Monet: Three Centuries of French Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum will premier at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield from December 13, 2011, through April 29, 2012.
The Wadsworth Atheneum, America's oldest public art museum founded in 1843, has never before presented a full-scale survey of its distinguished collection of French paintings. This exhibition of 50 outstanding masterpieces provides 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.
Presentation of Old Masters to Monet in Springfield is funded in part by the Michele and Donald D’Amour Fund, established in 2008 to bring world class art exhibitions to the D’Amour Museum. Additional major support is provided by MassMutual Financial Group, the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation, and Health New England.
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 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 Romanticism of Géricault and Delacroix; pastoral and realistic landscapes by Corot, Dupré, Courbet, and Rousseau; the academicism of Bourguereau, Vibert, and Motte, whose “Trojan Horse” of 1874 is the most recent painting purchased by the Atheneum. In addition there is the realism of Bonvin and Ribot. Portraiture is represented by the early portrait of a young woman by Millet, similar to the one in the collection of the D’Amour Museum.
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. In addition there are two superb paintings by Monet himself – the 1870 “Beach at Trouville” and the 1904 depiction of his Water Lily Pond. Also included are fine examples by their colleagues Manet, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas, and Cézanne.
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 Ranson, Vuillard, and Bonnard who focus on intimate interiors.
Old Masters to Monet also provides an opportunity for the D’Amour Museum to highlight its own outstanding French collection which features many of the same artists in the Wadsworth show. Among the finest French works in the D’Amour Museum are “Refreshments,” 1764 by Chardin, one of the artist’s most celebrated still-life paintings; “The Madman-Kidnapper,” c. 1823 by Géricault, an intense examination of mental illness; and “Grainstack, 1893 by Claude Monet, an example of the artist’s continuing exploration of the effects of light on the landscape.
There is a special exhibition fee of $10 for adults $5 for children ages 12-17 in addition to museum admission to view Old Masters to Monet. Children under 12 are free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Additional sponsors of the exhibition include:
FieldEddy, Inc.; Northwestern Mutual/The Springfield Group; The Republican; Peggy and David Starr; Diane Troderman and Harold Grinspoon; Wells Fargo Advisors; WGBY 57, Public Television for Western New England; Bulkley Richardson; Cooley, Shrair P.C.; J. M. O’Brien & Company; American International College; Bay Path College; Elms College; Springfield College; Western New England University; Florence Savings Bank; Paul Friedmann; Frank and Beatrice Hano; Andrew and Meghan Henshon in Memory of Rick Weaver; Noel and Carol Leary; UBS Financial Services; United Personnel; Merrie and Lyman Wood; and New England Public Radio, WFCR & WNNZ.