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"From Renoir to Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée de l'Orangerie"
2000-11-13 until 2001-02-25
Kimbell Art Museum
Fort Worth, TX, USA

Most great American art museums from New York to Chicago contain masterpieces acquired from the visionary Parisian art dealer Paul Guillaume (1891–1934), whose collection is showcased in this extraordinary exhibition. Indeed, Guillaume's brief career, beginning in 1914, when he opened his first gallery to specialize in African art and contemporary European painting, until his death at age 42 in 1934, coincided with an unprecedented expansion in the number of private museums worldwide.

Everywhere from Tokyo to Moscow to Washington, D.C., individual collectors set in motion plans for independent institutions, committed to modern and non-Western art on equal terms with the old master art of European civilization.

Some of these innovative collectors, such as Duncan Phillips, who privately opened America's first museum of modern art in the nation's capital in 1921, provided an atmosphere rather like that of an exclusive private residence in which to view the art, and in 1922 the eccentric Dr. Albert C. Barnes began plans for his Foundation museum to open in Merion, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. Guillaume, who was Barnes's principal agent in France, became sufficiently wealthy himself to begin to plan his own townhouse museum of modern art in Paris no later than 1927. The Great Depression and his untimely death prevented the realization of this idea. His widow, Juliette (Domenica) Lacaze, remarried to the architect Jean Walter yet managed to preserve many of her husband's favorite works, to considerably enrich this collection with her own acquisitions, and finally to negotiate its donation to the French state, thus preserving Guillaume's plan for a private museum, albeit within the great French public museum system.

Paralleling efforts by such artists as Gustave Moreau and Auguste Rodin to create museums of their own works, many late-19th- and early-20th-century collectors sought to create collections with multiple works by particular artists. Planning to establish his own museum of Western art in Tokyo, the Japanese tycoon Kojiro Matsukata, for example, collected more than two dozen works by Claude Monet in the early 1920s, while Barnes, whose collection eventually contained some 150 works by Renoir, was famous in Paris for having bought all the available works by the then relatively obscure painter Chaim Soutine in a single day, 50 to 100 in number, according to different accounts of the event. Following that same pattern of deep commitment to particular artists, Guillaume focused his collecting on a relatively small group of artists—Renoir, Cézanne, Rousseau, Derain, Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani, and Soutine—with the result that his collection amounts to a medley of one-artist exhibitions.

Paul Guillaume, Nova Pilota,
by Amedeo Modigliani.
Collection Walter-Guillaume,
Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

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