By Katy B. Olson | January 2, 2014 | Culture
Paul Cézanne’s A Painter at Work
From the ethereal haze rising from Claude Monet’s Water Lilies and the pastoral perspective of Paul Cézanne’s House in the Country, to François Boucher’s simple yet profound chalk sketch work, each element of the Denver Art Museum’s “Passport to Paris” exhibit summons la bonne vie. The three-part installation debuted on October 27, offering art enthusiasts and Francophiles alike a sophisticated glimpse of French life and history, as expressed through the palettes of the country’s most celebrated artists. The sweeping trio of exhibitions, each focused on masterpiece paintings, Impressionist landscapes, and raw sketches, presents an immersive reflection on the kinship between art and society in France from the late 1600s to the early 1900s.
Spring at Eragny, by Camille Pissarro
Christoph Heinrich, the Frederick and Jan Mayer director of the Denver Art Museum, calls the exhibit, which runs through February 9, 2014, “an opportunity to time travel through 300 years of French art, fashion, music, and lifestyle.” Comprised of three parts—including “Court to Café: Three Centuries of French Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum”; “Nature as Muse: Impressionist Landscapes from the Frederic C. Hamilton Collection and the Denver Art Museum”; and “Drawing Room: An Intimate Look at French Drawings from the Esmond Bradley Martin Collection”—the resulting show is a cohesive, layered look at how France came to life, and came to terms, with transitions from Louis XIV’s supreme monarchy to the heady café society of the early 1900s, through art.
An Elegent Interior with Two Ladies and a Gentleman, by Louis-Rolland Trinquesse
Museumgoers are encouraged to step back in time; in fact, it’s challenging not to, especially in the first exhibit, “Court to Café,” where visitors are regaled with period-specific décor and furniture hailing from the museum’s own reserve as well as costume art borrowed from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Highlighted are 50 masterpieces from the 17th through the early 20th centuries, their focus ranging from still lifes, religious figures, and landscapes to portraits and scenes as inspired as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s evocative rendering of a famous can-can dancer in Jane Avril Leaving the Moulin Rouge, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s oil depiction Claude Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil.
Jean-Guillaume Moitte’s Telemachus Embracing Love Held in the Arms of Eucharis
The second part of the trio, “Nature as Muse,” draws inspiration from the French countryside, with masterpieces from such 19th-century Impressionists as Berthe Morisot, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, and others, who worked out of doors amid the bucolic panoramas they longed to capture. With about 36 landscape pieces on view from a privately owned collection as well as from the museum’s own reserve, the exhibit offers the public’s very first look at these works. Claude Monet’s Road in the Wheatfields at Pourville is one particularly recommended piece, suggests Heinrich, who curated the section. Intimate and refined, the final section, “Drawing Room,” invites visitors to take a closer glance at 39 different drawings, etched in pastels, pencil and ink, chalk, and watercolor, and perceive for themselves the unadulterated genius of the masters as only firsthand access will permit.
Claude Monet’s The Beach at Trouville
Director Heinrich is especially enthused about the 11 Monet works, which weave a cohesive thread through each of the exhibit’s three sections. “Visitors will be able to trace his life’s work from a very early caricature that he drew as a rambunctious teenager to some of his finest landscapes from the heyday of Impressionism, to the late works he did of his water lily pond,” he explains. In fact, it’s one of Monet’s works that epitomizes the trio: The Beach at Trouville. “‘Passport to Paris’ is an immersive exhibition that activates all of the senses,” adds Heinrich. “Looking at these paintings, you almost can feel the fresh breeze off the Atlantic. It really shows the world of leisure that encompassed Impressionism.” Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Avenue Pkwy., 720-865-5000
photography Denver Art museum/william j. o’connor (Pissarro); courtesy denver art museum (Trinquesse); Denver Art Museum/Jeff Wells (Moitte); Courtesy Wadsworth Antheneum Museum of Art/The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Collection Fund (Monet); courtesy of Denver art museum/Jeff Wells (French Horn); courtesy of denver art museum/william j. O’Connnor (cézanne); courtesy of the wadsworth antheneum museum of art/the ella gall up sumner and mary catl in sumner collection fund (Tissot)