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"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,
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
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
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.