Following a two-year renovation, the 19th-Century French Galleries devoted to impressionism and post-impressionism return to public view. Picasso's Drawings, 1890-1921: Reinventing Tradition, shows the dazzling development of Picasso's drawings over a 30-year period, from the precocious student works of his youth to his major independent drawings in Paris and radical innovations of cubism and collage.The Baroque Genius of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione the Gallery showcases its rich holdings of works on paper by the Italian baroque master.
19th-Century French Galleries Reopening
Public opening: January 28
Following a two-year renovation, the galleries devoted to impressionism and post-impressionism in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art reopen to the public on January 28, 2012. Among the greatest collections in the world of paintings by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, the Gallery's later 19th-century French paintings will return to public view in a freshly conceived installation design.
"The Gallery's French impressionist and post-impressionist holdings, comprising nearly 400 paintings, are among the most prized in the collection, and rightly so," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "While the appearance of these revered rooms has changed very little—preserving the conditions of light, the room proportions, and wall colors that make the Gallery one of the great places to view art in the world—the paintings themselves will be shown in a newly innovative arrangement."
The new installation is organized into thematic, monographic, and art historical groupings. The "new" Paris of the Second Empire and the Third Republic are highlighted through cityscapes by Manet, Renoir, and Pissaro. Showcasing sun-dappled landscapes and scenes of suburban leisure, a gallery of "high impressionism" masterpieces of the 1870s is prominently located off the East Sculpture Hall, including such beloved works as Monet's The Artist's Garden at Vétheuil (1880) and Renoir's Girl with a Hoop (1885). A gallery is devoted to the sophisticated color experiments of late Monet, while Cézanne's genius in landscape, still-life, and figure painting is explored in another. Paintings exemplifying the bold innovations of Van Gogh and Gauguin are displayed along with Degas' later, experimental works in one gallery, followed by a room of canvases by artists such as Delacroix, Renoir, and Matisse celebrating exoticism and the sensual use of color and paint handling. The final gallery is dedicated to the Parisian avant-garde circa 1900: Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Rousseau, and early Picasso.
The recently acquired Black Rocks at Trouville (1865/1866) by Gustave Courbet will be on view for the first time in the French galleries. Additionally, 13 works have been newly restored. Most of these will be on view in the West Building galleries, including Renoir's sparkling Parisian view of the Pont Neuf (1872), his ever-popular Girl with a Watering Can (1876), Monet's classic Bridge at Argenteuil (1874), and an 1867 portrait of Monet's newborn son Jean in his cradle.
During the two-year period of repair, restoration, and renovation, works normally on view in these galleries were either in storage, on loan, or featured in a special installation—From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection—in the West Building Ground Floor galleries. Some 50 of the greatest works from this collection were included in major exhibitions shown in Houston, Tokyo, and Kyoto.
"A Collection of Collections"
Opened in 1941, the National Gallery of Art is significantly younger than its nationwide competitors—The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art —in this area of collecting. As the nation's art museum, the National Gallery's collection was formed through generous donations from private citizens and has continued to grow to the present day thanks to contributions by numerous collectors and patrons.
The impressionist and post-impressionist collection begins with the 1942 Widener bequest, and reaches a high point with an extraordinary gift from Chester Dale in 1962, which tripled the size of the Gallery's modern French paintings. These works include major masterpieces, such as Cézanne's The Peppermint Bottle (1893/1895), Gauguin's Self-Portrait (1889), Van Gogh's La Mousmé (1888), Degas's Four Dancers (c. 1899), and two of Monet's celebrated views of Rouen Cathedral (1894). Two of their most spectacular acquisitions, made within nine months of each other, were Manet's early masterpiece, The Old Musician (1862), and Picassos' early masterpiece, Family of Saltimbanques (1905). In particular, the Dales gravitated toward figural works, accruing examples by many of the modern masters of portraiture, as well as marvelous female nudes, such as Renoir's Bather Arranging Her Hair (1893) and Odalisque (1870) and Modilgiani's Nude on a Blue Cushion (1917). In accordance with the deed of gift, these great works may never be loaned.
Paul Mellon—son of the Gallery's founding benefactor Andrew Mellon—also avidly collected 19th-century French paintings, influenced by his second wife, Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. Inspired by Dale's example, Mellon expanded upon the the foundation of French modernism that Dale built for the Gallery. While the Dale collection includes Monet's later landscapes, Mellon collected Monet in all genres and across his career, as well as work by important impressionist painters the Dale did not collect, such as Bazille and Caillebotte. Mellon was a great admirer of Cézanne and gave the Gallery seven paintings spanning the artist's career, including the 1991 gift of Boy in a Red Waistcoat (1888–1890), one of the Gallery's great masterpieces. Mellon was also a devotee of Degas, and his gift of major paintings and sculptures by the master makes the Gallery's Degas collection one of the best in the world.
Paul Mellon's sister Ailsa Mellon Bruce augmented the Mellon family's dedication to the Gallery through her extensive 1969 bequest of great old master and impressionist paintings, by Renoir in particular. Other important donors to this part of the Gallery's collection include the Havemeyer family, W. Averell Harriman, his second wife Marie Norton Whitney Harriman and his third wife Pamela Digby Churchill Hayward Harriman, John Hay and Betsy Cushing Whitney, and Eugene and Agnes Ernst Meyer.
Small French Paintings
The Small French Paintings galleries in the East Building, designed to accommodate the extraordinary gift of French paintings from Ailsa Mellon Bruce, are among the most beloved at the Gallery. The works in these rooms have also been part of reconsidering the 19th-century French collection in the West Building. One gallery will feature an installation of prints together with several paintings by Pierre Bonnard, illuminating the way this artist works across the two media. Other groupings include a selection of circa 1800 landscape sketches, impressionist interiors, realist landscapes, a suite of works by Eugène Boudin, and intimate paintings by the artistic brotherhood known as the Nabis.
Picasso's Drawings, 1890–1921: Reinventing Tradition
January 29–May 6
Curated by: Susan Grace Galassi, Andrew Robison, Marilyn McCully
Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) was the greatest draftsman of the 20th century, exploring every technique from a single line to explosions of color. Through some 60 works, Picasso's Drawings, 1890–1921: Reinventing Tradition presents the dazzling development of the artist as a draftsman during the first 30 years of his career, from the precocious academic exercises of his youth to his radical innovations of cubism and collage. On view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from January 29 through May 6, 2012, the exhibition includes many of Picasso's finest drawings, watercolors, and pastels, borrowed from American and European public and private collections—including the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte—and seven drawings from the Gallery's collection of 278 works by Picasso.
"Drawing served as an essential means of invention and discovery in Picasso's multifaceted art, connecting him with the European masters of the near and distant past," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "Picasso's work has long been integral to the Gallery's collection and has been the subject of six important exhibitions here, but this is the first to focus on his major drawings, watercolors, pastels, and collages."
Exhibition Organization and Support
Picasso's Drawings, 1890–1921: Reinventing Tradition was co-organized by The Frick Collection, New York, where the exhibition was on view from October 4, 2011, through January 8, 2012, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of The Hearst Foundation, Inc. This exhibition is also made possible by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art.
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Picasso's Drawings, 1890–1921: Reinventing Tradition presents a diverse selection of works on paper arranged chronologically, from early academic studies and life drawings to preparatory drawings for paintings, major independent and finished drawings made for sale, and portraits of family and friends in all media.
The son of a drawing instructor, Picasso began to sketch at an early age. The exhibition opens with a selection of the most accomplished drawings from his childhood, including Hercules (1890)—his earliest known drawing. By age 14, he had mastered the conventions of classical draftsmanship through intense academic study and hard work, exemplified in Study of a Torso (1895) and Study from Life (1895–1897). The lessons learned in this period, as well as exposure to the art academies of La Coruña, Barcelona, and Madrid, and to old masters in the Prado, stayed with Picasso throughout his life.
Picasso's move to Paris in 1904 coincided with rising public access to works on paper by old master and 19th-century artists through museum exhibitions and new means of reproduction. Inspired by Ingres, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, and Degas, as well as Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities, Picasso produced virtuoso drawings as independent works in a variety of materials (pen and ink, charcoal, pastel, watercolor, and gouache) and subjects (the couple, mother and child, and the harlequin family), for example Juggler with Still Life (1905).
The exhibition showcases the way in which Picasso (with Georges Braque) devised new approaches in drawing that culminated in cubism and collage—the most critical development in his career and arguably in the 20th century. His interest in ancient Iberian art led to geometric stylization in visions of his mistress Fernande Olivier. In studies of individual figures, such as Yellow Nude (Study for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon) (1907), he revealed his thought processes as he progressively rendered the human figure more abstract. Watercolors of landscapes and still lifes as well as figures track Picasso's development of the interlocking facets that underlay cubism. Six major variations on a standing female nude explore his analytic vocabulary. Another series shows the artist's brilliant transformation of the new medium of collage into major artistic statements. In the collage The Cup of Coffee (1913), Picasso created a dialogue between conventional means of drawing and unconventional materials and techniques, and between virtual flatness and illusion of depth.
During World War I and immediately following, Picasso balanced tradition against innovation, embracing both classical modes and the cubist approach to representation. In portraits and images of bathers and figures, the artist rendered his subjects in spare contour drawings—for example, The Bathers (1918)—and in carefully executed sculptural drawings of the face and body, as in Portrait of Madame Georges Wildenstein (1918).
The concluding works in the exhibition are from the summer of 1921, when Picasso and his wife Olga Khokhlova and baby Paulo were staying at Fontainebleau. Head of a Woman and Woman in a Hat Holding a Missal are pastel and charcoal renderings of monumental female figures, reflecting Picasso's deep interest in the classical Mediterranean tradition.
Curators and Exhibition Catalogue
The curators of the exhibition are Susan Grace Galassi, senior curator, The Frick Collection; Marilyn McCully, an independent scholar and Picasso expert; and Andrew Robison, senior curator of prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
The Baroque Genius of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione
January 29–July 8
curated by Jonathan Bober
An exhibition at the National Gallery of Art will showcase its rich holdings of works on paper by the Italian baroque master Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609–1664), as well as works by his contemporaries and followers. On view in the Gallery's West Building from January 29 to July 8, 2012, The Baroque Genius of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione suggests, for the first time, the complex sources of his style such as Rembrandt van Rijn and Claude Lorrain, as well as its importance for later artists, from Giambattista Piranesi and the Tiepolo family to Antoine Watteau and François Boucher.
The exhibition includes approximately 80 works, most from the Gallery's collection; many recently acquired and never before exhibited. The last exhibition in the United States to survey Castiglione's works on paper took place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1971.
"Castiglione was perhaps the most complex and far-reaching interpreter of the baroque, and we are delighted to present this novel examination of his style through the essential form of his prints and drawings," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "At the same time, The Baroque Genius offers a striking demonstration of the breadth and depth of the Gallery's collection of old master prints and drawings."
The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Organized according to themes and concerns in his work—biblical processions, the memory of the antique, mythical revelry, the Flight into Egypt, mysterious burials, fantastic heads, radiant Nativities, and experimental techniques—the exhibition presents Castiglione's works and comparative examples side by side, underscoring the serial aspect of his creativity. This thematic organization makes clear his concern with continuous and creative variation on the same theme. At the same time, each section includes examples from traditions and by artists that influenced Castiglione's approach to a theme, as well as later works that were in turn inspired by him. This demonstrates the exceptional number and range of his sources, while suggesting his significance in the history of art.
Although born, trained, and active in Genoa, Castiglione worked for long periods in other Italian centers, notably Rome. His paintings were relatively few in subject but so varied that their identification can be elusive. At first combining the diverse styles in his native city, he steadily incorporated every major current of the baroque: the lyrical design fashionable in the previous century, the genre subjects of Netherlandish engravings, the exuberance of Peter Paul Rubens, the intellectual concerns of Nicolas Poussin, the sensitive observation of Rembrandt, and the visionary ecstasy of Gianlorenzo Bernini. Simultaneously repertory and individual, his style transcended all conventional categories, tremendously influencing artists in the following century—from Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard to the Tiepolo family and Piranesi.
Prints and drawings were primary forms of expression for Castiglione. His passion for experiment was best served by the small scale, directness, and rapid execution of these media. For a painter of his stature they represent an unusually large part of his activity. The graphic arts were also the area of Castiglione's most remarkable creativity: his drawings with brush and oil on paper defined the possibilities of the technique, his etchings were the finest of any native Italian of the period, and his monotypes—unique images transferred from a plain surface to paper—were the first in history.
Prints, Drawings, and Illustrated Books at the National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery's collection of prints, drawings, and illustrated books in the department of prints and drawings consists of more than 100,000 Western European and American works on paper and vellum, dating from the 11th century to the present day. Because works on paper are highly susceptible to overexposure to light, they can be exhibited only for short periods. For that reason, the Gallery maintains a schedule of changing exhibitions drawn from its own collection or on loan from other institutions and private individuals. Drawings and prints not on view may be seen by appointment by calling (202) 842-6380.
The exhibition curator is Jonathan Bober, curator and head of the department of old master prints, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Image: Edouard Manet, The Railway, 1873, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Horace Havemeyer in memory of his mother, Louisine W. Havemeyer
Press preview: Tuesday, January 24, at 9:00 a.m
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