What's on in Paris in Fall /Winter 2011

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Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso... The adventure of the Steins
© RMN
Grand Palais
5th October 2011 to 16th January 2012

Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso... The adventure of the Steins
The Steins, an American family who settled in France in 1903, have imprinted their seal on the French art of the 20th century not only by collecting some of the most important Post-Impressionist art, but also with their cultured vision and open mindedness. The emblem of their influence being the portrait of Gertrude Stein by Picasso, a work that is regarded as the pivotal stone towards Cubism and a turning point in modern art.
“Their naked feet wear Delphic sandals. They raise scientific foreheads to the sky.” Appolinaire wrote about the Steins in 1907.
The exhibition is arranged around the three Stein siblings and their art collection: Gertrude, the avant-garde writer who lived with her brother Leo in Paris’ rue de Fleurus, and their elder brother Michael and his wife Sarah who resided in rue Madame.
The exhibition of the amazing Stein collection, which included works by Renoir, Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, Manguin, Bonnard, Vallotton, Laurencin, Gris, Masson and Picabia, explores the root of their taste, which gave them the impetus to collect modern art. It shows the importance of their dominance on the aesthetics of their epoch that they forged by sustaining those artists both morally and materially.
Leo’s analytical view of modern art, and his exchange of opinion on the sources of modernity with the intellectuals of the epoch was crucial. He preferred, however, collecting the work of the elders: Renoir, Gauguin, Degas and Cézanne. He was so attached to his Cézanne apples that when he split with Gertrude in 1913, Leo wrote to Gertrude during the division of the collection ‘The Cézanne apples have a unique importance to me that nothing can replace… you can have everything except that”.
Gertrude’s friendship with a penniless Picasso in 1906 resulted in his famous portrait of her which took 90 sittings in a laborious style that synthesized Cubism and an emulation of African art. Gertrude endured this in Picasso’s Spartan ‘bateau lavoir’ studio while Fernande Olivier, one of Picasso’s companions, read the ‘LaFontaine Fables’ to warm the gelid atmosphere and help pass the time. In the end he rubbed out Gertrude’s face and painted it again from memory.  The finished work astonished Gertrude and others to a point that Picasso is said to have claimed “you’ll see, she will end up resembling the painting”.  Less anecdotal was her poetic approach of writing and it’s influence on Cubism, a style that left out commas and indulged in cubistic rhythmic repetitions.  Her love of art made her sleep in museums, but notwithstanding her eccentricities, the likes of Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway visited her nine to midnight, although the latter stopped visiting pretending to have heard strange “moaning” while he was waiting to be received. A commentary about Gertrude’s life and collection by McBride, an art critic from the New York Sun, was that she “collected geniuses rather than masterpieces”.
Sarah’s fascination with Matisse’s art and her suggestions have paved the way that streamlined the path of modernity that many amongst the artists chose.  From late afternoon into the night Sarah, nicknamed “Sally” by Jack London, and her husband Michael Stein received Apollinaire, Man Ray and Braques who hung the paintings that virtually wall papered their walls.
They began their collection with Matisse’s Fauvist ‘woman with a hat’ which they bought at the 1905 Salon d’Automne.
The exhibition makes a chronological tour of the Stein collections in eight commented sections where the specific personality and collection of each member of the Stein family is brought to light.

Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
3 Ave du Général Eisenhower, Paris 8th
Phone: 01 44 13 17 17
Metro: Champs-Elysées Clémenceau
Open:
Every day 9:00 to 22:00
Tuesdays 9:00 to 14:00
Wednesdays: 10:00 to 22:00
Thursdays: 10:00 to 20:00
During school holidays every day:
from 9:00 to 23:00
Closed: 18, 24, 25 and 31st December
Price: 8/12 Euros
Free for children under 13

Giacometti and the Etruscans © RMN
16th September 2011
to 8th January 2012

Giacometti and the Etruscans - Pinacothèque, Paris
An artist is the recipient of culture past and present and his mission is to pass it on to future generations.  However, the search for the origins of all that may have influenced him is not what is essential in his art: it is rather what he creates and puts forward that matters, even if he uses existing material or inspiration.  In an eminent artist such as Giacometti whose work bears the hallmark of past, present and future synthesized in one (walking men), this search for influence could prove pointless. Yet one is astounded by a small Etruscan sculpture from the 3rdcentury BC (Ombra della Sera), a haunting shadow of the past whose aesthetic expression is so akin to Giacometti’s elongated sculptures called ‘The Woman of Venice’ (1956), ‘Woman standing’ or his ‘Walking Men’(1960). This spindly man who struggles to reach a goal seems to be earthbound, almost incapable of overcoming the law of gravity. With Giacometti we have the choice of seeing the elongated exaggeration of his figures as a metaphor of the human condition: subject to all sorts of impediments, he nevertheless goes forward, only to find death as his ultimate destiny.
This series of sculptures is like recurrent dreams: the series of standing women, treelike figures destabilized only at their base by an inclination as if under the burden of fruit, are highly restrained, verging on being hieratic; by contrast the nude walking men, although stuck to the ground with their big feet, are struggling forward as if enduring a long march.  A woman has no need to search for a purpose for being; she carries life in her, therefore, she is and will be. But men, these pitiful walking skeletons or 'mummies', can triumph over death only through art (this is the time that God was proclaimed dead by philosophers and scientists). The bonding of an immortal art with the finite existence of man — this ambiguous creature condemned to an absurd life and meaningless death — mirrors the same mindset and attitude to life as in his model Jean Genet, who reciprocated by writing ‘L’Atelier d’Alberto Giacometti’.
Did the Etruscan ‘Ombra della sera’ carry a hidden allegoric meaning or was it stylized for some practical function? We do seem to underestimate ‘the primitive art’ that surely had a high degree of spirituality and undeniable human feeling and artistic expressivness.  This is an art that survived for centuries to haunt Giacometti with its mysterious beauty and incredible modernity. Being an art of the pre-Christian era, it did fit with the will of the 20th century artists to discard religious subjects or inspiration.  Yet Jean Genet sees a subterranean religiosity in Giacometti’s sculptures, even a mystical one when he wrote "There is no other origin to beauty than suffering, and Giacometti wants to discover this hidden suffering". Undoubtedly the little Etruscan sculpture was pivotal in Giacometti’s aesthetic path, even if during a trip to Italy in 1920 he also discovered the Futurists as well as ancient Egyptian art, and of course the Italian Cinquecento and the Renaissance. After settling in Paris in 1922 he met with André Breton and the Surrealists and was influenced by several other artistic movements such as Cubism as well as by other sculptors such as Lipchitz, Laurens and Archipenko.  But archaic and primitive art, celebrated in Paris during the 1930s, crossed his path again at the 1955 Exhibition of Etruscan Art in Paris.  The root of so many modern movements of his time, whether philosophical or artistic, was primitive art and his visit of Volterra’s Etruscan collection in the 1960s must have sealed this conviction and transformed his art.

 

Pinacothèque de Paris
28, place de la Madeleine

Metro: Madeleine

Open: 10:30 to 18:30
Wednesdays & Fridays until 21:00
Price: 10 Euros

75008 Paris
Giacometti and the Etruscans
16th September 2011
to 8th January 2012

see also
Berlin-Munich 1905-1920. Der Blaue Reiter vs Brücke
13th octobre 2011 to11th March 2012

Information at 33 (0)1 42 68 02 01


John William Waterhouse
Saint Cecilia
©Christie's images/Bridgeman Art Library
Exhibition from 13th September 2011 to 15th Janurary 2012
Beauty, Morals and Voluptuousness in the England of Oscar Wilde
As a reaction to materialism and the crudeness of 19th century industrial world on the one hand and the dictates of a lingering old-fashioned Victorian idea of morality on the other, artists including painters, designers, writers and poets took refuge in their own idealized world by creating a movement with its own aesthetic path— ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ —whose only dictate was pleasure and sensuality. The ‘Cult of Beauty’ was thus born.
It is difficult at first to see the link between Whistler’s ‘nocturnes’, Rossetti’s ‘Bocca Baciata’ and the aphorisms of Oscar Wilde. Beauty, like truth, being relative and not absolute, the term aesthetics re-discovered and coined at the same time was thus perfect to convey an essence in art that is not linked to time or custom, subject matter or style, moral or cultural values, an essence that lives for and by itself independently.  After the Pre-Raphaelite movement faded out in 1850, Dante Gabriel Rossetti became the central figure of a new movement, called the ‘Aesthetic Movement’ joined by Edward Burne-Jones the Romantic, William Morris the designer, Swinburne the English version of the ‘cursed poet’ and Whistler the aesthete.  The interaction and influence amongst these artists is well emphasized by the duo Whistler and the architect Edward Godwin, the surprising modernity of whom took source in cultures as diverse as Greece and Japan.  The Aesthetic Movement evolved from 1870 driven by Whistler, Leighton, Watts, Albert Moore and Burn-Jones towards an oneiric idea of art that had for subject the evocation of a poetic state of mind putting forward the synthetic character of our senses to suggest the unity of all artistic forms that points to the common roots of art and music.  “Each art aspires permanently to the state of music”, wrote Walter Pater the Aesthetic Movement’s theoretician.
The Aesthetic Movement finds its ultimate incarnation in Oscar Wilde. Led by two of his tutors Walter Pater and John Ruskin, Wilde not only adopts all penchants and eccentricities of the movement, he even embodies what some critics call decadence. He questions moral value of the belief in ‘good’ or ‘evil’ in art as in life. “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.  Books are well written, or badly written, that is all.” In ‘Decay of Lying’ he is nearer the aesthetes than the moralists but he is essentially criticizing the Victorian philosophy: “The final revelation is that lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of art.” He became the prophet of ‘Art for Arts Sake’…“The highest art rejects the burden of the human spirit, and gains more from a new medium or a fresh material than she does from any enthusiasm for art, or from any lofty passion, or from any great awakening of the human consciousness. She develops purely on her own lines. She is not symbolic of any age. It is the ages that are her symbols”. In The Critic as Artist  he is bringing in a new paradigm by saying “what is termed sin is an essential element of progress. Without it the world would stagnate, or grow old, or become colourless”. “All art is immoral”.
Wilde is both in agreement and disagreement with Ruskin and Pater, and he illustrates this perfectly in ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ showing his own view of art and life. His view is a synthesis of the two opposites: Pater’s interpretation of aesthetics into a cult of pure beauty disconnected with reality, and Ruskin’s moral stance (which he calls the theoretic faculty) and his praise of the immaterial (as opposed to the aesthete’s pre-eminent value for surface and form) in addition to his abhorrence for the utilitarian view of art. In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ form and consciousness are inseparable like body and soul.
The ‘Aesthetic Movement’ was the beginning of an awakening, a renewal and not an end to itself, with artists such as Whistler or authors such as Wilde who reflected the new philosophy at it’s core and promoted it to be a pivotal point in art and philosophy.

Musée d'Orsay
62, rue de Lille/1 rue de la Légion d'Honneur, Paris 7th
Metro: Musée d'Orsay or Solférino

Open: 10:00 to 18:00
Thursdays until 21:45 and Sundays from 9:00 to 18:00
Closed: Mondays
Price: 8.50 Euros (Museum + temporary exhibitions).
Photography gallery, ground floor.

Information at 33 (0)1 40 49 47 50