IMPRESSIONIST PARIS: CITY OF LIGHT – At the Legion of Honor

An exhibition presented in conjunction with Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay at the de Young

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Concurrent with the Musée d’Orsay masterpiece exhibition at the de Young Museum is Impressionist Paris: City of Light at the Legion of Honor now through September 26th, 2010. Visitors to the exhibition will be transported to Impressionist Paris as represented in more than 180 prints, drawings, photographs, paintings and illustrated books dating from 1850 to the early 1900s from the outstanding permanent collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, as well as several distinguished private collections.

dubonnet-poster
Quinquina Dubonnet, 1896
Color lithograph poster with pen, crayon, and spatter,
Sheet: 573 x 388 mm (22 9/16 x 15 1/4 in.)
FAMSF, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David M. Houston

“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.”

john-buchanan-and-james-a-ganz
FAMSF Director John Buchanan and Curator James A. Ganz. Photo, S.M.

cluny-garden
Charles Courtney Curran, 1861–1942

Afternoon in the Cluny Garden, Paris, 1889
Oil on wood panel, 23.5 x 30.5 cm (9 1/4 x 12 in.)
FAMSF, Bequest of Constance Coleman

La ville lumière—“the City of Light”: Paris earned this nickname during the 19th century with the proliferation of gas lamps that lit up the French capital, turning night into day and boosting its economic vitality. Moreover, the radiance of the metropolis transcended the glow of its streetlights as Paris ascended to its role as the cultural capital of Europe. Authors, composers and especially visual artists—painters, photographers, printmakers and sculptors—thrived in this dazzling setting. Impressionist Paris explores various aspects of life in and around the city in which these artists came of age.

foyer-of-the-opera-ca-1880e280931890
Jean Louis Forain, 1858–1931
Foyer of the Opera, ca. 1880–1890
Oil on canvas, 61 x 80 cm (24 x 31 1/2 in.)
FAMSF, Collection of Diane B. Wilsey

nudes
Camille Jacob Pissarro, 1830–1903
Paysannes nues dans l’herbe (Nude Peasants in the Grass), ca. 1894–1895
Monotype, Plate: 126 x 177 mm (4 15/16 x 6 15/16 in.)
FAMSF, Museum Purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund

Passing through the shadows of the medieval city to reach the colorful spectacle of the Grand Boulevards, Impressionist Paris: City of Light explores various aspects of Parisian society and the French art world from roughly 1850 to the turn of the 20th century. Picturesque views of the narrow streets and stone bridges of old Paris by Charles Marville, Charles Meryon and Johan Barthold Jongkind give way to colorful images of modern Parisian life, with Edgar Degas, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Georges Seurat offering public and private views of the bustling metropolis. Prints and periodicals featuring the work of Honoré Daumier, Edouard Manet, Paul Signac and James Tissot convey key historical events and underscore the emergent role of illustrated art journalism. A gallery of black-and-white works on paper by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt and Paul Gauguin reveal another side of the exhibition. The spectacle of modern life is conveyed through galleries devoted to popular entertainment in late 19th-century Paris, including colorful images of the theater, café-concerts, circus, as well as the Expositions Universelles. The exhibition concludes in a blaze of color with a selection of posters of the turn of the 20th century by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jules Chéret, Théophile Steinlen and Alphonse Mucha.

plates-23-and-17
Draner (pseudonym of Jules Renard), 1833–1926
Plate 23 – Pendant le bombardement (During the Shelling),
Pen lithograph with hand-coloring, Image: 214 x 157 mm (8 7/16 x 6 3/16 in.)
Plate 17 – Les comestibles (Edibles), from the series Paris assiégé,
Pen lithograph, hand-coloring, Image: 212 x 160 mm (8 3/8 x 6 5/16 in.)
Plates from the series Paris assiégé, scènes de la vie parisienne pendant le siège
(Paris Besieged, Scenes of Parisian Life during the Siege), ca. 1871

Exhibition curator James A. Ganz penned a beautiful, fully illustrated catalogue titled Impressionist Paris: City of Light that includes 100 images from the exhibition. (hardcover 156 pages, $29.95). The catalogue will be available in the special exhibition Museum Store. Mr. Ganz will present the lecture “Culture Clash: The Elephant and the Eiffel Tower” on Saturday, June 26 at 2:00 pm. Sunday live chamber music performances are scheduled for July 18th, August 1st, and August 15th from noon to 2 pm. The chamber musical selections reflect the Impressionist era and are presented in partnership with San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music and Classical Revolution.

THE PYRAMID SKYLIGHT
During an expansion of the Legion of Honor from 1992–95, new special exhibition galleries were built, including Rosekrans Court, and a glass pyramid skylight was installed above them in the museum’s Court of Honor. The pyramid is evocative of the I.M. Pei-designed pyramid in the central courtyard of the Louvre (completed in 1989). In keeping with one of the main themes of Impressionist Paris—light—the skylight cover is open for the first time in over a decade, leading visitors into Rosekrans Court and the main entrance of the exhibition. Rosekrans Court will be installed with plants, garden statuary and park benches.

sean-martinfield-in-the-rosekrans-court
Photo, Tom Crites

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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.

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