What's on in Paris in Spring/Summer 2010

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'Study of Hand & Feet"
Théodore Gerlicault
photo © Musée Fabre Montpellier

16th March to 27th June 2010

Crime and Punishment
What has Degas’ ‘Little Dancer’ in common with Otto Dix’s ‘Murder’, Warhol’s ‘Electric Chair’ or David’s ‘The Death of Marat’?
It’s the inspiration of Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ via Balzac of course…
The fascination of the public for the dark side of human nature was graphically illustrated on the inauguration day of the two exhibitions hosted by Musée d’Orsay: the one dedicated to Meijer de Haan — with his refined ‘squeaky’ clean paintings (almost as if scrubbed with a detergent)— was almost empty whereas across the hall people were queuing to see ‘Crime and Punishment’.
“Thou shalt not kill” says the Bible, yet while the fratricidal transgression of Cain (represented here by Gustave Moreau) had inspired literature and the arts for centuries, 19th century literature brought the obsession to new heights. A century before the book, the reality of both crime and punishment surpassed fiction with the assassination of Marat by Charlotte Corday, depicted in all its horror by David. The guillotine—the arch symbol of punishment, judged surer and less cruel than the hatchet—became a favorite as a measure of leniency in 1792.
The creation of fascinating and complex criminals by Dostoyevsky (e.g. Raskolnikov), Zola (Jacques Lantier) and the hint that a murderous trait could be hereditary (The Rougon-Macquarts) or psychological (the parricide in Brothers Karamazov) led to scientific studies of the murderer and his motives.
Zola’s criminal hero finds its echo in the ‘Little Dancer’ of Degas. Her receding forehead was based on Degas’ sketches in court of young mobsters, and shows his interest in crime and atavism. Degas went so far as saying that  “an artist must approach his work in the spirit of the criminal about to commit a crime”. “Ignorance is the mother of all crimes” wrote Balzac in his ‘Cousin Bette’. But rather than ignorance, one may argue that the base instincts like jealousy lead to most crimes.
The fascination with crime reaches its zenith in an elated Baudelaire: “In wrong one finds intense pleasure”.  There are attempts at crime’s biological justification “The need to kill is born with man” (Octave Mirabeau) or even in its glorification, likening the criminal mind to poetic genius (by Thomas Mann in his Magic Mountain).  There are those who find a close resemblance between artistic inspiration and crime, (Cesare Lombroso 1877).  The Surrealists in particular continued the tradition of fascination with crime through Max Ernst with ‘Une semaine de bonté’ and André Breton’s Surrealist poem ‘Un cadavre exquis’. And, more recently, Woody Allen has brought the power of cinema to bear on the subject with ‘Match Point’.
But is crime not simply small-mindedness, a lack of real imagination and talent? Is the petty thrill that attracts so many to an enigma surrounding a crime not replacing the real curiosity for the origin of life and human thought? Or maybe it is the interrogation about life and death that brings the artist to examine crime that in the artist’s mind is a prototype of what life is about: birth, struggle to replicate, survival and death (the archetype of all crimes being the sex-driven serial type)
One of the most important advances in human societies was the abolition of the death penalty by the French Justice Minister Robert Badinter, even if real justice does not exist when we are in the domain of vengeance, and the real punishment is the prison of a criminal’s mind. “Thou shalt not kill” though—for any reason whatsoever, be it called justice—and the death penalty was voted out.
As we continue the exhibition contemplating so many of the greatest painters from Goya and Gericault to Lautrec, Picasso, Dix, Groez, Munch reaching Warhol’s ‘Electric Chair’, one wonders if the common obsession and morbid infatuation with crime and punishment does not go beyond remorse and redemption to embrace the deeper cognition of life.

Orsay Museum
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
01 40 49 47 50

Turner© RMN
24th February to 20th May 2010.

Turner and his painters
Although his atmospheric sketches and watercolors allowed him to firmly anchor on shore while painting “the tempest in his mind” so “evanescent and airy” in Constable’s words, Turner was inclined to study and be inspired by the masters of the past or those contemporary to him.
However, his admiration with a tinge of competitive emulation for other artists, did not lead him to imitate but was more an exigence in pursuit of excellence to surpass and go further as he did by being a precursor to the Impressionists.  His affinity with other artists was more a sort of poetic response or a gentle conversation emphasizing his own point of view to what was produced by his fellow artists. A talented watercolorist, he wished to equal the best of his time (Thomas Girtin and Richard Wilson) and why not Claude le Lorrain, in front of whose painting he is reported to have weeped, deeming himself incapable to equal the 17th century master. Ambitious to master all the landscape genres, he tried all types of landscape from topographic watercolors to seascapes, classical or fantastic landscapes, and even historical scenes.
He studied diligently Salvatore Rosa and Nicolas Poussin with the firm intention to later rebut and jostle their technique, introducing intense, saturated color to enhance his romantic visions — the ‘Deluge’ being directly derived from Poussin’s painting of the same theme. Even his small figure paintings can stand up to a Watteau or David Wilkie.
Other famous ‘dialogues’ include responding to Bonnington’s ‘French Coast with Fishermen’ or to Constable’s ‘Waterloo bridge’ with the 1830 ‘Calais Sands’, or ‘The Beached Boat’ of 1828.
The discovery of Venice in 1820 produced ‘Venice from the Porch of the Madonna della Salute’ in 1835 (New York, Metropolitan Museum) and a more profound study of Claude Lorrain’s ‘Sunset at sea’ (Louvre, 1639) and ‘The Landing of Cleopatra at Tarsa’ (Louvre), became an occasion to produce his own symphonic interpretation, ‘The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire’ (1817, Tate).

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

El Greco
12th March to 1st August 2010

From Greco to Dali, the Great Spanish Masters
On show at the Jacquemart-André museum, fifty paintings by twenty-five Spanish Masters from the Perez Simon collection are arranged in a thematic order confronting and comparing fascinating panoramas of paintings at different epochs. The golden century and its religious painting are present through El Greco and Ribera, inspired by mysticism sublimed by chiaroscuro or tenebrism to which Murillo’s lightened palette or Goya’s profane paintings produce their response in technique or theme.
The art of portraiture commissioned to Spanish painters by the court is represented by a number of paintings from Sánchez Coello to Goya.
The strong nationalist sentiment crystallized by opposition to the napoleonic rule gives rise to popular or intimate scenes, especially with Joaquin Sorolla reaching the apogee of this genre. 
The exhibition underlines the continuity alternating with periods of break with tradition. The modern Spanish masters who revolutionized art close the exhibition with works by Picasso, Gris, Miró, Dalí and Tàpies in the form of a dialogue between Cubism and Surrealism.

Jacquemart-André Museum
158, boulevard Haussmann, Paris 8th
From Etoile take Avenue de Friedland and continue until boulevard Haussmann. You can walk this distance from the Etoile (approx. 10 minutes).
Metro: Miromesnil or Saint-Philippe du Roule
Open: Every day from 10:00 to 18:00
Price: 8 Euros

The Jacquemart-André Museum also has a very charming café/restaurant and a library.

Venus at the mirror
Tiziano Vecellio, National Gallery of Art Washington©RMN
17th September 2009 to 1st April 2010
Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese... Venetian Rivalry
Choosing identical themes dear to the trio of the Venice ‘Golden Age’ painters Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese, their creation is confronted in this exhibition as a triologue among the three rival painters who inspired each other. Titian, who liberated from Mannerism in old age, became increasingly inventive and dramatic; on the other hand Tintoretto's dynamic energy and Veronese's more decorative interpretation of these themes, while differing in execution, have many similarities due to their common roots.
The exhibition is organized chronologically and thematically in order to convey their evolution after 1540. A multimedia presentation of Titian's "Virgin and child with rabbit" is presented in the Richelieu wing, 2nd Floor of the Louvre.

Visit the mini site:

Musée du Louvre
Entrance through the 'Pyramide du Louvre'
Paris 1st
Metro: Palais-Royal/Louvre
: every day 9:00 to 17:30
Closed: Tuesdays
Price: 7.50 Euros before 15:00; 5.00 Euros after 15:00 and all day Sundays.
Combined ticket (permanent and temporary exhibitions): 11.50 Euros before 15:00, 9.50 Euros after 15:00 and all day Sundays.
Special ticket for the temporary exhibitions in the Napoleon Hall: 7 Euros.
Free entrance the first Sunday of each month.
Phone: 33 (0)1 40 20 51 51

Munch © Munch Museum / Munch Ellingsen Group / ADAGP, Paris 2010
19th February to 18th July 2010

Edvard Munch or the anti-scream – This is not the man you think.
The exhibition aims at demystifying the work of Munch in order to liberate his real artistic personality from the one emblematic painting, The Scream, by which he is known the world over. His amazing modernity was already apparent since the 1880’s. He was already experimenting with all sorts of techniques, transforming the surface by weathering his paintings in rain or snow, pasting photos or films into his paintings or drawings.  He even attempted to eliminate the frontiers of technical media, exporting them into each other; from sculpture to engraving, painting or collage they became the same vehicle to convey his thought. By his transgressive modernism he is now considered as the missing link between the Picasso-Braque lineage of art and that of Dubuffet-Pollock.

Pinacothèque de Paris
28, place de la Madeleine
75008 Paris
Open: Every day 10:30 to 18:00
Metro: Madeleine
Price: 9 Euros
Phone: 01 42 68 02 01