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Indepth Arts News:

"Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, and Roussel, 1890-1930"
2001-06-26 until 2001-09-09
Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York, NY, USA

A unique exhibition Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis and Roussel, 1890-1930, will provide American audiences a rare opportunity to experience the decorative projects carried out in France between 1890 and 1930 by Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Ker Xavier Roussel. The exhibition consists of approximately 80 paintings and folding screens on loan from international public and private collections.

Influenced by the English Arts and Crafts Movement, the Rococo revival, and a growing interest in Japanese art, Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis, and Roussel were increasingly intrigued with the concept of décorations in the 1890s. They aimed to create an environment in which art and daily life were inextricably linked. The results are spectacular groups of unusually-scaled paintings, conceived singly and in groups for domestic and public interiors. Many of the decorations are fragile and have never before or only rarely traveled to the United States. Great effort has been made to reunite paintings so that examples from each series may be seen together, often for the first time since they were dismantled from their original interiors.

The exhibition is made possible in part by the Janice H. Levin Fund.

This exhibition is organized by The Art Institute of Chicago in collaboration with The Metropolitan Museum of Art. An indemnity has been granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically, beginning with studies for the first Decorative Panels that Bonnard exhibited at the 1891 Salon des Indépendants, as well as all four Panels to Decorate the Bedroom of a Young Girl that Denis presented at the Seventh Salon des Indépendants the following year. Also included are two of Denis's ceiling paintings, Ladder in Foliage, or Poetic Arabesques for the Decoration of a Ceiling and April (1892 and 1894).

A small room is devoted to The Album, five panels that Vuillard created in 1895 for Thadée and Misia Natanson. The paintings hung in the Natansons' home until financial difficulties forced their sale in 1908. The Metropolitan Museum's presentation of this exhibition marks the first time the entire series has been reunited in almost 100 years.

In the mid-1890s, Paris art dealer Siegfried Bing was an important advocate for these decorative ensembles; he exhibited Vuillard's Album series at his gallery, La Maison de l'Art Nouveau, in 1895, as well as a series he had commissioned from Denis, Decorations for the Bedroom of a Young Girl. Beyond the Easel features several panels from this series, as well as from a similar series that Denis painted for his own bedroom over the next few years, which all share a common palette of gray-blue and mauve.

One large gallery of the exhibition will be devoted to Vuillard's Parisian cityscapes. Of particular note are his depictions of the Place Vintimille, which the artist painted from his apartment window. A spectacular five-panel folding screen depicting the place was painted in 1911 for Marguerite Chapin, an American living in Paris. In addition to preliminary studies for the screen, the Metropolitan's presentation also includes an important later version, showing the same square under construction.

The final galleries of the exhibition are devoted to the shared interest of Roussel, Denis, and Bonnard in depicting the idyllic qualities of southern France. The last gallery features Bonnard's colorful, sun-drenched canvases, including three paintings that he created in 1906-10 for Misia Edwards (who had since divorced Thadée Natanson and married a wealthy businessman) on the theme of exotic lands, voyages, and pleasure. Another highlight of this section is the large triptych Mediterranean (1911), commissioned by Ivan Morozov for his Moscow home, which has been installed in a recreation of that original interior. Also featured are two of the decorations Bonnard created for the entryway of art dealer Georges Bernheim's Paris home (1916-20), as well as three of the artist's paintings depicting the terrace of his home at Veronnet.

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