What's on in Paris in Spring/Summer 2011

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A Ballad of Love and Death: Pre-Raphaelite Photography in Great Britain, 1848-1875 - Orsay Museum, Paris
Under the influence of the art critic John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelite painters and early Victorian photographers shared a common ground that was primarily inspired by Dante, Shakespeare, Lord Byron and above all Tennyson’s idealized medieval poems. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, prominent amongst whom John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Ford Maddox Brown, tried to break away from the dictates of the Royal Academy whom they deemed corrupted by the mannerism that followed Raphael’s classical compositions.  They adopted a more modern vision that took source paradoxically in the quattrocento, defined by bright colors and detailed and precise drawing. At the same time, photographers were experimenting with wet collodion to reach a true-to-nature precision in their photos. But some portrait photographers, such as Julia Margaret Cameron, through the glass negative technique of blow-up, obtained delicate yet imprecise pictures in obvious antithesis with Ruskin’s precept.
Raphael, whose classical style was decried, was nevertheless a source of inspiration for portraitists such as Rossetti who painted forever his favorite model and hopeless love Jane Morris (married to William Morris), for whom he even directed a series of photographic sittings by Robert Parsons. But it was the death of his wife, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, for whom he felt intense love like a Dante for Beatrice or a Petrarc for Laura that was perhaps at the origin of his wish to immortalize beauty.
The same fascination with the love-life-death trio inspired Millais’ Ophelia (one of the few occasions Rossetti’s wife Elizabeth was allowed to pose for another artist). This masterpiece of the painter became a model for Henry Peach Robinson’s photographic illustration of the‘Lady of Shalott’ by Tennyson or his famous ‘She never told her love’ exhibited in 1858 at Crystal Palace. Victorian photographers followed the Pre-Raphaelites in their choice of historical, religious subjects or illustrating modern life subjects, but around the1880’s the former Pre-Raphaelite artists, and authors such as William Morris, Burne-Jones, Whistler or Oscar Wilde transformed the movement; they moved towards a cult of ‘beauty’ and not that of ‘beauty and goodness’ as Ruskin had preached. Contemporary photographers emulated the art of painting and became the source of the ‘pictorialist’ movement, a term coined by Henry Emerson in his ‘Photography: a pictorial art’, suggesting that photography is an art in its own right. His own photos tended towards truthful naturalism defended in his ‘Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art’.


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


Claude Monet – The inner journey (MONET : LE VOYAGE INTÉRIEUR)
For sixty years Claude Monet painted his vision of the world interpreted into light and vivacious colors of his own imagination. These paintings are so well known that we forget how original and personal they were when he painted them. There is of course the capture of the instant and the creation of atmospheric effects, but there is more to his paintings than just fugitive impressions. The high-pitched tones and the moving surface correlate with the shadowy stillness of profundity. The observation of nature developed a philosophy: that of the ever-changing and relative nature of material beings. Breaking with the models of the past, Monet’s Impressionism opened the way to freedom of expression vis-à-vis traditional painting, which finally led to abstraction and non-representational art in the generation of artists that followed him.
The 200 paintings that come from some sixty museums and private collections are ordered chronologically as well as thematically, starting with his landscapes of Fontainebleau and Normandy. From his large paintings to his portraits and still lifes the exhibition follows him to his last home in Giverny, where he painted his almost abstract water lilies – floating between heaven and earth, with an abstract quality that connotes a calligraphy of a new language.

Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais
3 Ave du Général Eisenhower, Paris 8th
Phone: 01 44 13 17 17
Metro: Champs-Elysées Clémenceau
Open: 10:00 to 17:35
Closed: Mondays
Price: 10/11 Euros

Heinrich Kühn
Heinrich Kühn’s ambition was to create photos that could rival paintings in their artistic value. He was a close associate of Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, central figures of Pictorialism, a photographic movement.that advocated emulation of paintings with photography by aiming at softening and breaking a picture’s sharpness.
Although the aim was to equal paintings and etchings in their artistic expression, the outcome lacked originality and Stieglitz himself later moved away from the movement considered a vision of the past.
A student of medicine in Innsbruck, Kühn had experience in microscopic photography.  It was in 1895 at the ‘Camera Club’ of Vienna that he met Hugo Henneberg and Hans Watzek who were both enthusiastic about the movement for the artistic recognition of photography.  This international movement linked them with the two vanguard associations: the ‘Photo Club de Paris’ and the ‘Linked Ring’ of London.  This eagerness to match the artistry of paintings in photography led to experimentation with various techniques such as dichromate gum applied with a paint brush.  The trio took part in the Sezession and exhibited their works, some of large format resembling paintings.  After 1904 Heinrich Kühn became friends with Stieglitz, who influenced his art; departing from a Romantic form of Impressionism towards a lighter almost abstract art, he put forward light and color values rather than content. From 1907 he used the autochrome technique in color photography —invented by the Lumière brothers — that further enriched his delicate photos without detracting from their poetic beauty. 

Musée de l’Orangerie
Jardin des Tuileries
75001 Paris
Metro: Concorde
Open: every day 9:00 to18:00,
Closed Tuesdays, 1st May & 25th December
Price: 7.50 Euros
Phone: 01 44 77 80 07