Indepth Arts News: |
"RENOIR TO PICASSO: Masterpieces from the Musee de l'Orangerie, Paris"
2001-06-01 until 2001-07-29
Art Gallery of New South Wales
The great names in modern French art, including
Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Monet, Modigliani,
Derain and Picasso, are showcased at their
finest in Renoir to Picasso: Masterpieces from
the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. This spectacular exhibition, comprising 81
paintings, will be on view at the Art Gallery of
New South Wales from 1 June to 29 July, before touring to the National Gallery of
Victoria on Russell.
These are paintings from a legendary collection founded by the great Parisian art
dealer Paul Guillaume, whose remarkable achievement was to persuade wealthy
Parisians that avant-garde art was a highly desirable status symbol. He was the man
who made collecting modern art the smart thing to do. Guillaume’s widow
Domenica, who subsequently married mining tycoon Jean Walter, bequeathed the
Walter Guillaume Collection to the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris where it has been
on view since 1984.
The collection perfectly evokes the era between the two World Wars, when there
was a desire for an affirmative form of modern art that reconciled tradition with
innovation, popular culture with a cosmopolitan sophistication, simplicity with
opulence, pleasure with intellectual rigour.
Paul Guillaume’s collecting over a twenty year period from 1913 until his death in
1934 at the age of 42, reflects the tastes and the passion of the times – a wonderful
survey of 50 years of early 20th century ‘great French painting’. Guillaume’s taste
was adventurous – he was an early champion of African art, viewing its aesthetic
qualities over ethnographic interests. He discovered and exhibited for the first time in
Paris young and bold avant-garde artists such as de Chirico, Soutine, Utrillo and
Modigliani, well ahead of their wider appeal, and acquired for his own collection
some of Picasso’s, Matisse’s and Derain’s most daring paintings.
Guillaume did not come from a wealthy and cultivated background, nor was he
interested in simply supplying works of art for customer demand like other art
dealers. Instead he actively promoted aspects of the artistic and cultural life of Paris,
providing moral and material support to artists, interpreting the art of his time for his
contemporaries. Guillaume was celebrated by the artists he supported – for instance
in Modigliani’s portrait of him the words Novo pilota, or ‘new helmsman’ identify the
sitter as being at the forefront of modern art.
Guillaume’s will bequeathed the collection to the Louvre, but gave his widow
Domenica complete ownership of the works during her lifetime and the ability to
dispose of them as she saw fit. Although she continued to house the collection, she
sold works to finance her second husband Jean Walter’s business interests. On
Jean Walter’s death, the wealth he had amassed enabled her to add significantly to
the Guillaume collection. Her legacy was to moderate the “primitivist” thrust of the
collection, and to enrich it with more works by Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Sisley and
Guillaume’s premature death prevented his dream of opening a museum of modern
art from being realised. Domenica Guillaume-Walter honoured his intention by
negotiating for their combined collection to be housed in the Tuileries Gardens in the
Musée de l’Orangerie. These negotiations were only completed in 1963, with the
state taking possession in 1977 following Domenica’s death. Jean Walter played no
part in the development of the collection, although Domenica named it in honour of
her two great loves.
Major renovations currently being undertaken at the Musee de l’Orangerie have
enabled the tour of this exhibition.
Following viewing at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Renoir to Picasso:
Masterpieces from the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris will tour to the National Gallery
of Victoria on Russell (10 August to 30 September).
An exciting addition for visitors to the exhibition is the inclusion of three paintings
from Claude Monet’s famous Water Lilies series, on loan from Galerie
Larock-Granoff in Paris.
Nude amid landscape 1883
Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris
copyright PhotoRMN - Jean Schormans