Joslyn Art Museum brings Paris a little closer to home -
Published Sunday, June 23, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:33 pm
Joslyn Art Museum brings Paris a little closer to home

Road trip!

Ordinarily, that's what it would take if you want to see the works of the greatest artists in the impressionist or post-impressionist movements.

This summer, you have another option. “Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color” has brought 49 impressionist and post-impressionist paintings from the permanent collection of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tenn., to Omaha's Joslyn Art Museum. It's an opportunity that doesn't come along often.

The show includes some of the biggest names in art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Renoir, Monet, Degas, Seurat, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cassatt, Matisse, Chagall. Other works are by equally talented artists of the era whose names don't exactly trip off our tongues: Raffaëlli, Roualt, Boudin, Helleu, La Touche, Fantin-Latour, Forain.

“You can discover new names in addition to those we know in this exhibit,” said Jack Becker, Joslyn's executive director.

If you go..

What: "Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color," 49 impressionist and post-impressionist works from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tenn.

When: Through Sept. 1

Where: Joslyn Art Museum, 22nd and Dodge Streets

Admission: Free

Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays; noon to 4 p.m. Sundays

Special event: Family Fun Day, variety of activities from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. today

While Joslyn can complement the exhibition with pieces from its permanent collection — a couple of Monets, a Renoir, a Cassatt, a Matisse, a Pissarro and a Degas ballerina sculpture — its holdings from this time period are somewhat sparse.

Historically, impressionist painters haven't been a specific focus for Joslyn's collection-building, and the works often are exorbitantly expensive when they come on the market.

Impressionist art remains one of the most popular movements in all of art history, for reasons that go beyond the way the paintings look.

The movement coincided with the rise of the middle class, which is depicted in many of the paintings, and is often focused on social concerns, said Toby Jurovics, Joslyn's chief curator. The artists rejected the salon or art arbiters of their time to go their own way, which changed the course of painting and influenced future artists from Picasso to the abstract expressionists.

So if “Renoir to Chagall” weren't here this summer, how far would we have to go to get a glimpse of works by these artists?

You can see plenty fairly close to home. The Art Institute of Chicago (468 miles) is famous for its collections of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. It has works by most of the great artists of the period, including at least nine Cezannes, four by Berthe Morisot and Seurat's famous pointillist piece “A Sunday on La Grand Jatte — 1884.”

Travel north and you'll find big collections of Paul César Helleu and Chagall among others at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (368 miles). Kansas City, Mo., (183 miles) isn't too far away and at its Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, you can see works by Gauguin and Henri Fantin-Latour. Across Missouri, at the St. Louis Museum of Art (439 miles), there are Matisses and Chagalls.

If you want to go further afield, check out the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York (1,255 miles), the National Gallery and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. (1,152 miles), the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (1,434 miles) and the Indianapolis Museum of Art (608 miles). On the West Coast, don't miss the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1,552 miles). All have prominent impressionist and post-impressionist works in their collections.

In the meantime, though, you can hop over to the Joslyn for an impressionism fix.

The largest painting in “Renoir to Chagall,” Gaston La Touche's “The Joyous Festival,” greets visitors as they walk into the gallery. On the canvas, light from lanterns and exploding fireworks is reflected in the faces of partiers.

From there, the exhibit is set up thematically — landscapes, ballet, portraits, still lifes — and gives visitors a great sense of the social life of both Paris and the French countryside, Becker said.

An entire wall is dedicated to ballet paintings. Everyone knows Degas' ballerinas, but Jean-Louis Forain's are just as delightful, especially the two paintings on fans. His paintings often have social commentary: bored or inebriated gentlemen doing crass things or seeking the favors of dancing girls, contrasts of the high-born with the low.

“The Wave” shows us a different side of Renoir, widely known for his paintings of people. The thick, dabbed-on paint suggests a crashing wave, its subject matter not as important as the creation process. Cezanne's “Trees and Rocks Near the Chateau Noir” is a similar work of abstraction.

Other landscapes pass from seascapes to country scenes and cityscapes, and incorporate varying styles, from Pissarro's pointillist “Soleil Levant a Eragny” to Jean-François Raffaëlli's more realistic “The Place d'Italie After the Rain.”

Helleu's wonderful pastel work “The Final Touch,” Morisot's “Peasant Girl Among Tulips” and Henri Stanislas Rouart's “Women Playing a Guitar” show the increased interest in solo female portraits, Jurovics said. Morisot and Cassatt were among the first women artists to be exhibited and accepted on equal terms, he said.

Still lifes include the delicate floral paintings of Fantin-Latour and Georges Braque's un-Cubist-looking “Pot of Anemones.” And don't forget Chagall, whose “Bouquet of Flowers With Lovers” and “Dreamer” have the most intense color in the show — brilliant blues and reds that seem to leap off the canvas.

Contact the writer: Carol Bicak    |   402-444-1067

Carol writes about community news, local profiles, the arts and books. She also covers the zoo.

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