Published: March 27, 2012
The Speed Art Museum presents an exhibition of modern French masters in “Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color,” on view through May 6. The exhibition was co-organized by the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tenn., and the Speed.
“Renoir to Chagall” features more than 80 paintings by the great French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, as well as key artists who came immediately before and after them. Listed artists represented include Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Georges Braque and Marc Chagall.
Featuring 55 paintings from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens and nearly 30 works from Speed’s collection and public and private collections throughout Kentucky, “Renoir to Chagall” represents a partnership between two of the South’s finest art museums.
Dr Charles L. Venable, director and chief executive officer at the Speed, said, “We at the Speed value partnerships with local and national arts organizations highly and are very pleased to join forces with the Dixon to organize such a visually beautiful and intellectually interesting exhibition for display here in Louisville, especially while the Speed’s collection of Old Master paintings is on view in Memphis.”
The exhibition demonstrates how as the art capital of the Western world, Paris produced and attracted artists of great accomplishment. On view are portraits, scenes of daily life, still lifes, landscapes, interiors and the worlds of the ballet, cafés, boulevards and other aspects of modern city life that made Paris a magnet for artists.
Portraits and figure paintings represented include works such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s oil portrait of one of his three sons, 1890s, and Mary Cassatt’s “The Visitor,” depicting her sister Lydia, who was one of her favorite models.
Scenes of late Nineteenth Century Parisian nightlife and popular entertainment figure prominently in the exhibit. One gallery is devoted to paintings and pastels of the Paris ballet and its dancers. The centerpiece is Degas’ “Dancer Adjusting Her Shoe,” 1885, which shows the artist at the height of his career, masterfully wielding charcoal and glowing pastel to capture the spontaneous movement of a young dancer leaning over to adjust her slipper.
The influence of both Degas and his protégé Jean-Louis Forain can be seen in the subject and the rapidly executed style of “Dancer Seated on a Pink Divan,” circa 1883, by the 20-year-old Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Many artists in this exhibition explored still life, and some redefined it. Among those represented here are two brilliantly colored canvases by Marc Chagall depicting dream-like scenes of brides and grooms with still lifes of flowers and fruit, both symbols of abundance and fertility, traditional wishes for newly married couples.
The exhibition comes to a fitting finale with scenes of Paris, the city that nurtured and inspired so many of the artists in this exhibition. Among the outstanding paintings in this section are Jean-François Raffaelli’s “The Place d’Italie, after the Rain,” 1877, and Pierre-Albert Marquet’s luminous “Point of Ile St Louis,” 1928.
The Speed Art Museum is at 2035 South Third Street. For information, 502-634-2700 or www.speedmuseum.org .
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