Saturday, March 22, 2014

'Intimate Impressionists' coming to the Legion of Honor

Mark your calendar for the upcoming exhibit at the Legion of Honor. The National Gallery is closed for renovations and San Francisco will benefit from this with a show featuring 19th century avant-garde painters such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent van Gogh.

The exhibition includes nearly 70 paintings from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and features a selection of intimately scaled impressionist and post-impressionist still lifes, portraits and landscapes, whose charm and fluency invite close scrutiny.

“Intimate Impressionism resonates with the outstanding impressionist and post-impressionist works from the Museums’ own holdings,” says Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “This exhibition is the latest in a rich history of collaborations between the Fine Arts Museums and the National Gallery of Art dating back to the 1940s. We are pleased to host these national treasures and provide our audience with the opportunity to view them here at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.”

 Kenneth Baker had the privilege of talking to the curators of the show, Mary Morton of the National Gallery and Melissa Buron of the Fine Arts Museums and asked them to "single out a few favorites."

Vuillard's "Yellow Curtain" appeared on both their lists. Morton: "Vuillard lived with his mother much of his life, in small apartments where the brightly designed textiles of his mother's business as a seamstress covered most of the visible surfaces. Out of this environment, the artist created hundreds of small-scale meditations on patterns and colors, creating wonderfully abstracted spaces. In this picture, a figure, probably his mother, pulls back a uniformly ocher-yellow curtain to reveal an exuberantly patterned room beyond. These small works garnered the moniker "Intimistes" for Vuillard and his comrade Pierre Bonnard."

Buron: "The title doesn't give us a lot of information, but we know that it's a snapshot of Vuillard's mother in her dressing room. We know because of how she's dressed and groomed that she's either just gotten up or is getting ready to retire. We don't know whether she's aware of being watched. The fact that she's shown in this setting with a bright curtain and pattern, and the flatness, make it feel very tightly enclosed. It conveys the intimacy of a family connection."

More on Vuillard:

'Self Portrait Dedicated to Carrière. 1888/89, Paul Gauguin. Mockery and malice in equal measure.

Morton: "Gauguin painted multiple self-portraits across his career, and he was intensely concerned with his own persona, with creating, in dress and manner, a particular vision he had of the avant-garde artist. Here he wears a brightly colored Breton shirt, signaling his affinity with this remote region in northern France and the culture there that Gauguin felt was more "primitive," closer to nature, a place apart from the decadent modernity of Western capitals like Paris. He gazes out with a kind of knowing look, and with his ears slightly pointed, he looks like a troublemaker."

'Mound of Butter' 1875/1885, Antoine Vollon

Morton: "Here an artist who is not well known makes a veritable masterpiece out of a mountain of soft, churned butter. There is a marvelous way in which the viscous texture of the paint he smears around with his brush serves as a kind of analogue for the substance of butter, the butter knife standing in for the paint brush."

'Tama, the Japanese Dog' c. 1875, Edouard Manet

Buron: "This picture was owned by Théodore Duret. He traveled in Asia and became one of the first great European collectors of Japanese art. He brought back this dog, and convinced Manet that he should paint it. We know its name because it's stamped on the upper corner. ..."

"Manet made the dog look like he's just gotten into or is about to get into some mischief. Manet may have put a Japanese doll in the foreground to suggest this. Tama looks completely indifferent to the fact that someone of Manet's stature is painting his portrait. "

All images from the National Gallery Web Site:

Quotes from Kenneth Baker's interview in the Chron

"Intimate Impressionists" opens at the Legion of Honor March 29

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