Published: November 29, 2011
“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 from December 13 to April 29.
The Wadsworth Atheneum has never before presented a full-scale survey of its collection of French paintings. This exhibition of 50 masterpieces provides a history of French painting and includes religious and mythological subjects, portraiture, landscape, still life and genre painting.
The exhibition begins with the great Seventeenth 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 Eighteenth Century works include humorous genre paintings, still lifes by such masters as Chardin and historical paintings inspired by the French Revolution. Likenesses of aristocrats include “Portrait of the Duchesse de Polignac” by the most important woman painter of the era, Madame Vigée-Lebrun.
The portion of the exhibit exploring the Nineteenth Century shows a variety of styles, including the Romanticism of Géricault and Delacroix; pastoral and realistic landscapes by Corot, Courbet and Rousseau and the academic style of Bouguereau.
Perhaps the most appealing group of works in the exhibition is the selection of Impressionist paintings, which includes 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, along with examples by their colleagues Manet, Pissarro, 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 on view. Finally there are paintings by Ranson, Vuillard and Bonnard, who focus on intimate interiors.
The show also provides an opportunity for the D’Amour Museum to highlight its own outstanding French collection, which features many of the same artists shown 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,” circa 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.
The D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts is on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street. For information, 413-263-6800 or www.springfieldmuseums.org .
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