MASTERPIECES FROM THE MUSÉE D’ORSAY – Coming to the de Young Museum

Birth of Impressionism opens May 22nd
Tickets go on sale today

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco welcomes the United States debut of Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay on view at the de Young Museum May 22nd to September 6th, 2010.  The exhibition includes approximately 100 paintings from the permanent collection of the Musée d’Orsay and highlights the work of William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, among others.  The Musée d’Orsay is lending their most beloved paintings while it undergoes a partial closure for refurbishment and reinstallation in anticipation of the museum’s 25th anniversary in 2011.  Birth of Impressionism will be followed in the fall of 2010 by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, and Beyond: Post–Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay.  The de Young will be the only museum in the world to host both exhibitions.  Tickets go on sale today, April 6th, 2010: Birth of Impressionism

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View of the Marseille Gulf from L’Estaque. 1878-1879.
Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Oil on canvas. 23 x 28 inches.

“These two exhibitions present a rare and unique opportunity for Americans to see the evolution and incubation of the Impressionist style from the collection of the most important repository of French 19th and early 20th-century art – the Musée d’Orsay,” says John E. Buchanan, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.  “These exhibitions give us the opportunity to share with visitors some of the most seminal works of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art that they would only be able to see in Paris or in an art history book as the likelihood of them traveling en masse again is slim.”

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EDOUARD MANET (1832–83) and CLAUDE MONET (1840–1926)

Birth of Impressionism presents works by the famous masters who called France their home during the mid-to-late 19th century and from whose midst arose one of the most original and recognizable of all artistic styles, Impressionism.  The exhibition begins with paintings by the great academic artist Bouguereau and the arch-Realist Courbet, and includes American expatriate Whistler’s Arrangement in Gray and Black, known to many as “Whistler’s Mother.”  Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley are showcased with works dating from the 1860s through 1880s, along with a selection of Degas’ paintings that depict images of the ballet, the racetrack, and life in the Belle Époque.

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The Dancing Lesson. 1873-1876.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Oil on canvas, 37 3/8 x 29 ½ inches.

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Race Horses Before the Stands. 1866-1868.
Edgar Degas (1834-1917). Oil on canvas, 18 1/8 x 24 inches.

“Does Impressionism still have something to teach us about its sources, its beginnings, its transformations, and its links with the period of its first flowering?” asks Musée d’Orsay curator Stéphane Guégan.  “This is the challenge taken up by this exhibition which attempts to decompartmentalize the movement by comparing it with art in the 1870s in general.”

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James Abbott McNeill Whistler
(1834–1903)
and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)

Notable works in this exhibition include:
The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866) • Racehorses Before the Stands by Edgar Degas (1866–1868)
 • Family Reunion by Frédéric Bazille (1867)
 • The Magpie by Claude Monet (1968)
 • The Cradle by Berthe Morisot (1872) 
• The Dancing Lesson by Edgar Degas (1873–1876)
 • The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875) 
• The Swing by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1876)
 • Red Roofs, Corner of the Village, Winter Effect by Camille Pissarro (1877) 
• Saint-Lazare Station by Claude Monet (1877) 
• Rue Montorgueil, Paris. Festival of June 30, 1878 by Claude Monet (1878)
 • Snow at Louveciennes by Alfred Sisley (1878)
 • L’Estaque by Paul Cézanne (1878–1879)
 • Portraits at the Stock Exchange by Edgar Degas (1878–1879)
 • The Birth of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1879)

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The Birth of Venus. 1879.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905. Oil on canvas. 9′ 10″ x 7′ 2″

During the Musée d’Orsay exhibitions, the Friday Nights at the de Young series celebrates Impressionism and Post-Impressionism with lectures, music, and artist demonstrations.  Additionally, a symposium featuring Dr. Richard Brettell, a foremost authority on Impressionism and French painting of the period 1830–1930, is scheduled for opening day, May 22, 2010.  A two-volume catalog will be available in the Museum Store (softcover $29.95, hardcover $50).

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Red Roofs, Village Corner, Impression of Winter. 1877.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). Oil on canvas. 21 x 26 inches.

About the Musée d’Orsay and the refurbishment

The Musée d’Orsay, a train station created for the Paris International Exposition of 1900 and transformed into a museum by renowned architect Gae Aulenti, opened to the public on December 9th, 1986, with a goal to highlight the art of the western world from the period 1848 through 1914.  Its collection, including the building itself, is one of the world’s finest, comprised of paintings, sculpture, drawings, decorative arts, furniture, photography, and architectural work from this period consolidated from collections of the Louvre, Jeu de Paume and Modern Art Museum in Paris as well as major gifts from private collectors, artists and their heirs.  The Musée d’Orsay’s collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings represent the finest survey of its kind in the world.

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Snow at Louvenciennes. 1878.
Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) Oil on canvas. 24 x 20 inches.

In November 2009 work began on the refurbishment of the Pavillon Amont, to be followed by closure of the Impressionist galleries and the Café de l’Horloge in December 2009.  The objective of the refurbishment, designed by Jean-Michel Wilmotte, is to increase function and capacity, improve visitor flow, and enhance viewing of the collections with more sympathetic light, wall colors, and architectural finishes.  The rest of the museum will remain open during the work, whilst the collections are redeployed in the gallery of Lille on the ground floor.  The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings will be reinstalled in their permanent galleries in spring 2011.

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Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1; Portrait of the Artist’s Mother. 1871.
James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).  Oil on canvas, 56 3/4 x 64 inches.

Concurrent exhibition at the Legion of Honor

A special exhibition that provides context and heightens the understanding of Birth of Impressionism will run from June 5th to September 26th, 2010 at the Legion of Honor. Impressionist Paris: City of Light transports museum visitors to Paris circa 1874 as represented in over 150 prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, and illustrated books from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and several private collectors.

The exhibition features views of Paris, from panoramas to picturesque details, by Pierre Bonnard, Charles Marville, Charles Meryon, and Edouard Vuillard, among others; images relating to the Parisian art world, focusing on such figures as Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, and Camille Pissarro; and prints and periodicals that convey key historical events and underscore the emergent role of illustrated art journalism. Works by Honoré Daumier, Edouard Manet, Georges Seurat, James Tissot, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec offer an overview of popular entertainment and leisure, with colorful images of the theater, café-concerts, circus, and pleasure gardens, as well as the Expositions Universelles.

“This exhibition gives us a special opportunity to show off some of the Fine Arts Museums’ greatest treasures from its holdings of 19th-century French works on paper, including an outstanding group of new acquisitions that will be shown here for the first time,” says exhibition curator James A. Ganz. “It is conceived as a journey from the dark alleys of ‘Old Paris,’ at the dawn of the impressionist era, to a world of color and light, culminating in a gallery of vibrant French posters from the turn of the 20th century.” Tickets to Birth of Impressionism at the de Young will be good for same-day admission to Impressionist Paris at the Legion of Honor.

Included in Impressionist Paris: City of Light will be Jean Louis Forain’s Foyer of the Opera, on loan from Diane B. Wilsey.

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Foyer of the Opera, ca. 1880–1890
Jean Louis Forain (1852-1931) Oil on canvas

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

HAPPY PESACH 2010
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