31 December 2012

Some Paris exhibitions

Due to reasons beyond my control, this post may be too late to be of much use, for which my apologies.

Paris this winter has a plethora of fine exhibitions – here are my reactions to four of them.

The Musée du Luxembourg is showing Le Cercle de l’art moderne Collectionneurs d’avant garde au Havre (The Modern Art Club Avant-Garde collectors in Le Havre). Between 1906 and 1910, a group of art collectors and artists formed the Modern Art Club in Le Havre with a membership including Braque, and Raoul Dufy (La Rue pavoisée, below) and some of the town’s wealthiest businessmen. They set themselves the objective of promoting modernism in Le Havre, organising exhibitions, lectures, poetry readings and concerts. Guillaume Apollinaire and Claude Debussy supported the Club, which had links to the newly established Salons d’Automne and des Indépendants in Paris.

Arguably, Impressionism began in Le Havre when Monet painted Impression, soleil levant there in 1872, so it is not surprising that the Club showed acquisitions by Monet and Renoir at their annual exhibitions. But some of the collectors also took an interest in the Post-Impressionists and the Fauves (Van Dongen’s La Parisienne de Monmartre c1907-8 in the poster above), buying from galleries (left), auctions or the artists themselves. The collections of two of them, Olivier Senn and Charles-Auguste Marande, have been donated to the Musée d’Art moderne André Malraux in Le Havre. The collections of the others are now dispersed but some of the works which they owned feature in the exhibition. Unfortunately there are no Matisses which some of the Le Havre collectors were buying at the same time as the Steins. About 90 works are on show including some which would have been regarded as unsuitable for the public’s (particularly female) eyes at the time (Marquet’s La Femme Blonde 1919, below).

A far less happy period in the history of modern French art is examined at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris: L’Art en guerre France 1938-1947 De Picasso à Dubuffet. The impact of the period from the uneasy years before the war, through the Occupation and its immediate post-War consequences, is traced in almost 400 works by over 100 artists. These include Arp, Ernst, Bonnard Rouault, Derain, Klee, Kandinsky, Chagall, Leger and Giacometti. The Nazi dislike of degenerate art was shared by Vichy, so works like those shown at the Paris 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition (Paul Delvaux Les noeuds roses, 1937, below)

and expressionist paintings were out of favour in the dark years from 1940 to 1944. Some artists, like Picasso (Nature morte à la chouette et aux trois oursins 1946 in the poster), retreated to their studios, others went into exile or, like Chaïm Soutine, led a semi-clandestine existence.

Only one of his works is on show at the Musée d’Art moderne, but Soutine is the subject of a comprehensive exhibition at the Orangerie, Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943) l'ordre du chaos. 22 works by Soutine from the Orangerie’s own collection have been supplemented by 48 loan items which together demonstrate the full range of his colourful expressionist technique (Madeleine Castaing, 1929, left).

But the main current exhibition in Paris given over to a single artist is Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais, first shown earlier in the year in Madrid. His images (Nighthawks 1942 in the poster) are so well-known directly and in cinematic evocation as not to require much description here. The exhibition puts some emphasis on the three visits to Paris which Hopper (1882-1967) made before World War 1 and the consequent influence on his style of contemporary European art. For British eyes it was a surprise to see, alongside works by Degas and Marquet, two Sickerts (including the Tate’s Ennui below left), and be given a fresh insight into an image like Room in New York 1932 (below, right).

After his time in France, Hopper sold one picture at the famous 1913 Armory Show in New York but would not make another sale for over 10 years, earning his living in the meantime as a commercial artist. There are (as far as I can tell from BBC Your Paintings) no significant works by Hopper in UK public collections. The Grand Palais exhibition provides us a rare opportunity (since Tate Modern in 2004) to experience the mixture of fascination and alienation exerted not only by Nighthawks, but, for example, Automat 1927, Chop Suey 1929 (top left and right, below), Eleven AM 1926 and later work such as New York Office 1962 (bottom left and right, below).


The Le Havre Modern Art Club exhibition ends on 6 January 2013.
L’Art en guerre ends on 17 February.
Soutine ends on 21 January.
Hopper ends on 28 January.

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