FEATURE image: EXPO CHICAGO 2018, Festival Hall, Navy Pier.
EXPO CHICAGO 2018 is the 7th annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. It took place September 27-30, 2018. Expo Chicago/2018 presented 135 galleries and exhibitors representing 27 countries and 63 cities from around the world. This post’s 60 photographs are of that event.
EXPO CHICAGO 2018 includes exhibitors four sections categorized to a specific aim: Exposure are galleries founded since 2010 featuring one or two artists; Profile are international galleries featuring solo or collective artists with focused installations, exhibitions and projects; Editions + Books highlight artist books, editions, prints, collectibles, photography, collage, drawing, etc.; Special Exhibitions” feature site specific work.
More EXPO CHICAGO 2018 sections include: IN/SITU highlighting curated large-scale installations (a second, outside version features large-scale sculptures in various Chicago locations); EXPO VIDEO highlighting curated film, video and new media work; EXPO SOUND highlighting curated sound installations and projects.
FEATURE image: EXPO CHICAGO 2017, Festival Hall, Navy Pier.
EXPO CHICAGO 2017 is the 6th annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. It took place September 13-17, 2017. Expo Chicago/2017 presented 135 galleries representing 25 countries and 58 cities from around the world.
Brian Calvin, Momentary Monument, 2017, acrylic on canvas, Anton Kern Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
Admissions, Expo Chicago 2017.
Information desk, Expo Chicago 2017.
Lara Schnitger, Suffragette City, 2015-2017, Cotton, and linen, quilted and bleached, Anton Kern Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
The War We Won, Roger Brown, oil on canvas, 80 x 120 in., Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago. Expo Chicago 2017.
Doug Argue, Dream Song 12, 2017, oil on paper, 40,x,60 in., Marc Straus, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
CarrerasMugica Contemporary Art Gallery, Bilbao. Expo Chicago 2017.
Galerie Gmurzynska, Zurich, Switzerland, with booth design by Antonio Manfreda. Expo Chicago 2017. Germano Celant, theorist of the Arte Povera movement. From 2015 he was the artistic director of the Prada Foundation in Milan.
Matthew Monahan, Hurricane Nickel, 2016, and Aquarius Gemini, 2016, Anton Kern Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
Anton Kern Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
Rita McBride, Halicarnassus, 2010, bronze and grey limestone, and Pantheon 2, bronze and markina marble, CarrerasMugica Contemporary Art Gallery, Bilbao. Expo Chicago 2017.
Wardell Milan, The New Sun Will Warm our Proud and Naked Bodies, 2016, charcoal, oil, oil pastel, pastel, gesso, acrylic, color pencil, cut paper on paper, David Nolan Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
Meleko Mokgosi, Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles. Expo Chicago 2017.
John A. Seal, König Galerie, Berlin. Expo Chicago 2017.
Alfred Leslie, Oval Collage, 1959, Diana Moore, White Head, 1988 and Willem de Kooning, 1965, charcoal on paper, Alan Stone Projects, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
Thinks I, To Myself. Expo Chicago 2017.
Expo Chicago 2017.
Expo Chicago 2017.
Jackie Saccoccio, Portrait (Bomba), 2017, and Faheem Majeed, Hopscotch I, 2011, and Pause, 2010, Rhona Hoffman Gallery Chicago. Expo Chicago 2017.
Expo Chicago 2017.
Garth Greenan Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
Iva Gueorguieva, Listen, 2017, acrylic oil collage on canvas, Miles McEnery Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
Hayal Pozanti, 70 (million m.p.h that the earth orbit around the sun), 2017, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 132 in., Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, California. Expo Chicago 2017.
Lavar Munroe, Instinctual, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 42 in., Jenkins Johnson Gallery, San Francisco. Expo Chicago 2017.
Expo Chicago 2017.
Peres Projects Berlin. Expo Chicago 2017.
Ransome Stanley, Untitled, 2017, oil on canvas, 59 x 78 in., Gallery MOMO, South Africa. Expo Chicago 2017.
Booth 839, Expo Chicago 2017.
Caroline Walker, Grimm Gallery Amsterdam New York. Expo Chicago 2017.
Expo Chicago 2017.
Nicolas Africano, Untitled, 2017, cast glass, Weinstein Gallery Minneapolis. Expo Chicago 2017.
FEATURE IMAGE: Manuel Mendive, Este Lugar Sagrado/This Sacred Place, 2009, acrylic on canvas, Cernuda Arte Coral Gables, FL. Expo Chicago/2016.
EXPO CHICAGO 2016 is the 5th annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall. It took place from September 22-25, 2016. Expo Chicago/2016 presents 145 galleries representing 22 countries and 53 cities from around the world. This post’s photographs are of that event.
Jeff Koons, BMW M3 GT2, Expo Chicago/2016.
Alfredo Jaar, Be Afraid of the Enormity of the Possible, 2015, neon, edition 3/3 + 3AP, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, Germany. Expo Chicago/2016.
At Dittrich & Schlechtriem, Berlin, Germany includes artwork by Klaus Jörres and Julian Charrière. Expo Chicago/2016.
At Cernuda Arte Coral Gables, FL. Manuel Mendive (foreground) Este Lugar Sagrado/This Sacred Place, 2009, acrylic on canvas. Expo Chicago/2016.
Paintings I, Art+Language, Made in Zurich 1965-1972, London. Expo Chicago/2016.
The Art + Language group’s Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden in Chicago. Founded in the mid1960s in the United Kingdom by Terry Atkinson (b. 1939), David Bainbridge (b. 1941), Michael Baldwin (b. 1945) and Harold Hurrell (b. 1940), artist Mel Ramsden joined in 1970.
Throughout the 1970s, Art + Language dealt with questions about art production and attempted a shift from conventional forms of art, such as painting and sculpture, to theoretically linguistic (text)-based artwork. Art + Language remains active today in several collaborative projects.
Jonathan Lasker, The Handicapper’s Faith, 2011, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, Germany. Expo Chicago/2016.
At Gallery MOMO Cape Town/Johannesburg, South Africa. Artwork by Mary Sibande. Expo Chicago/2016.
Andrew Moore, Mirador, Gibara, Cuba, 2008, 46 x 58 inch archival pigment print, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York.
Margot Bergman, Agnes, acrylic on canvas, 2016, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.
Shannon Finley, Googol, 2015, acrylic on linen, 4 panels 95 x 189 in.,Carrie Secrist Gallery, Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.
Euan Uglow, Sue Wearing a Blue Swimming Cap, 1978/80, oil on canvas 19.5 x 27.5 in., Browse & Darby London. Expo Chicago/2016.
Juan Garaizabal, Álvaro Alcázar Gallery, Madrid. Expo Chicago/2016.
April Martin, The Sun had not yet Risen, 2016, copper, thread, glass, vinegar, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.
Hermann Nitsch, Schüttbild (Shaped Image), 2013, Acrylic on Canvas, Marc Straus Gallery, New York City.
Dialogue with Miguel Aguilar and Chris Silva, Conversation Pieces. Expo Chicago/2016.
Louise Bourgeois, Girl with hair, 2007, archival dye on silk, edition of 12, Carolina Nitsch, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.
Pace Gallery, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.
Expo Chicago 2016.
Genieve Figgis, Half Gallery, New York City. Genieve Figgis is an artist from Ireland who began her artistic career on social media. Expo Chicago/2016.
Buddha’s tight ringlet curls by Qi Yu. Ceramic cinnabar mineral mounted on canvas. Expo Chicago/2016.
Artist Qi Yu of Redbrick Art Museum, Beijing, China.
North Cafe. Expo Chicago/2016.
Listen, you a wonder. you a city of a woman. you got a geography of your own., Amy Sherald, 2016, 54 x 43 in., oil on canvas, Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago.
The artist’s title quotes American poet Lucille Clifton (1936-2010): “listen, you a wonder. you a city of a woman. you got a geography of your own. listen, somebody need a map to understand you. somebody need directions to move around you. listen, woman, you not a noplace anonymous girl; mister with his hands on you he got his hands on some damn body!”
Bernar Venet, Indeterminate Line, 2013, rolled steel, 75 1/2 × 80 × 62 in. Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York City. Expo Chicago/2016.
Richard Norton Gallery. Expos Chicago/2016.
Jannis Varelas, New Flags for a New Country, The Breeder, Athens, Greece. Expo Chicago/2016.
Jenn Smith, Untitled (Snake), oil and acrylic on canvas, 2016, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Expo Chicago/2016.
Atelier Van Lieshout, The Beginning of Everything, foam, paint, wood, paverpoll, 2016. Expo Chicago/2016.The molecule represents Glucose (C6H12O6), the primary source of energy for human life. Without glucose, nothing would function: neither the brain, intelligence, thought, muscles, movement or sports. Without energy, our lives would come to a standstill.
Featured Image: Ewerdt Hilgemann, Habakuk (Homage to Max Ernst), 2014, stainless steel, Borzo Gallery and The Mayor Gallery. In/Situ Outside 2015.
EXPO CHICAGO 2015 is the 4th annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall on September 17 – 20, 2015. This year’s exhibition featured 140 art galleries representing 16 countries and nearly 50 major international cities including New York City, Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, Rome, Berlin, London, Paris, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.
A. George Miller (American, 1905-1984), Untitled (City Nocturne), ca. 1950s, 16 x 24 in. Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago. A. George Miller attended The School of the Art Institute of Chicago starting in 1923. and was one of three official photographers for the 1933-34 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago.
Lucian Freud (German-born British painter, 1922-2011), Head & Shoulders of a Girl (detail), 1990 etching, edition of 50, Browse & Darby, London.
Hung Liu (Chinese-born American, b. 1948), Untitled (Dandelion), 2015, mixed media, 60 x 60 in., Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York. Hung Liu’s paintings are steeped in Chinese culture.
Sergio Carmargo (Brazil, 1930-1990), Untitled #504, 1970 and Anish Kapoor (India, b. 1954), Untitled, 2014, Fiberglass and paint (“Yellow Void”), 160 x 160 x 56 cm. Lisson Gallery London Milan New York.
Hunter Reynolds, Survival AIDS-ACT UP Chicago – A Revolution, 2015. Photo weaving, 8′ x 30′ Courtesy of artist & P.P.O.W. NY and Iceberg Projects Chicago.
Hunter Reynolds in collaboration with Elijah Burgher and Steve Reinke in Survival AIDS Mummification Performance presented in partnership with PPOW and ICEBERG Projects for Survival AIDS Chicago Act Up a Revolution.
Macon Reed, Incantation, 2015, Digital Photographic Print, 41 x 61 in.
Kate Werble Gallery, NY.
Chantal Joffe (UK, b. 1969), Green Strapless Dress, 2013, oil on board, 72.5 x 48.5 in., Galerie Forsblom, Finland. In a 2009 interview, Joffe said, “I really love painting women. Their bodies, their clothes – it all interests me.”
Vik Muniz (Brazil, b. 1961), Album: Over There, 2014. digital c-print, edition of 6, 71 x 105 in., Rena Bransten Projects, San Francisco.
Suzanne Martyl (American, 1917-2013), Asclepias, oil on masonite, 14 x 11 in., Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago. Suzanne Martyl or Martyl Langsdorf – or Martyl. The artist said that she “always found it fascinating to look and look and look, and spend all kinds of time until something would just ring a bell, and I would know how to rearrange nature to make a good composition.”
Books include British photographer Darren Almond; Chicago Social Practice installation artist Theaster Gates; English artist Damien Hirst; and German photographer Andreas Gursky.
VMU Gallery 101 / Art Fund curated by Rimas Čiurlionis, and coordinated by photographer Alex Zakletsky, presents a video installation of artists from the conflict zone in Ukraine including the work of Bella Logachova, Andriy Yermolenko and Ivan Semesyuk.
Victoria Gitman (b. 1972, Buenos Aires; lives in Hallandale, FL), Untitled, 2015. Garth Greenan Gallery, New York. Sensuous and conceptually sophisticated oil paintings that are look natural.
Paul Wackers, Look At What I Did Now, 2015, acrylic and spray paint on canvas, 48 x 40 in., Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York. Expo Chicago 2015.
Andy Warhol, Love in the spring, 1955, watercolor and pencil on paper, McCormick Gallery, Chicago and Vincent Vallarino Fine Art, New York.
Central Academy of Fine Arts School of Design, Beijing, China.
Marc Sijan ( American, b. 1946), Kneeling, resin and oil paint, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico (detail).
Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012), Reclining Woman, bronze, 1959. Behind, left to right: Charles Howard (American, 1899–1978), Friedel Dzubas (German-born American, 1915-1944) and Michael Goldberg (American, 1907-2007). McCormick Gallery, Chicago & Vincent Vallarino Fine Art, New York City. Black and white ensemble of abstract and figurative Modernist painting and sculpture.
Chilean artist Carlos Costa with one of his “Wind Studies,” 2015, a conceptual project based on structuring basic natural elements. Local Arte Contempoeáneo, Santiago.
Josh Garber, Ourselves, 2015, welded bronze, detail, complete artwork: 30 x 15 x 14 in., Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, Chicago.
Rimas Čiurlionis, special exhibitions.
Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, Florida, specializes in Cuban art.
In/Situ Outside. Ewerdt Hilgemann’s “Habakuk (Homage to Max Ernst), 2014, stainless steel, Borzo Gallery and The Mayor Gallery.
Hollis Taggart Galleries, New York.
Marc Sijan ( American, b. 1946), Kneeling, resin and oil paint, Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sijan’s super-realistic sculptures are, by the artist’s own words, “homages to humanity’s fascination with its own forms — a fascination which has compelled artists throughout the millennia to mirror life in virtually every medium.”
At Forum Gallery New York: Gaston Lachaise, Woman Walking, 1919, cast in 1968, polished bronze, 19 1/2 x 10 x 7 1/2 inches, Edition 6/6.
Gregory Scott, Van Gogh’s Bedroom, 2015, pigment print, oil on panel, HD video, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago.
Part of the Expo Chicago/2015 experience is temporary public art installations on the Chicago lakefront and throughout the city. Starting with Expo Chicago/2014, “In/Situ” works showcase large-scale installation art and site-specific works. Giuseppe Penone’s Idee di Pietra-Olmo (“Idea of Stone-Elm), 2008, Marian Goodman Gallery is a 30-foot tall bronze tree incorporating a boulder conveying the effects of human interaction in the natural world.
David Allan Peters, Untitled #24, 2015, acrylic on wood panel, Ameringer McEnery Yohe, New York.
Berthe Morisot (detail), femme et enfant au bois, pencil on paper laid on card stamped ‘B.M’ and numbered, Browse & Darby London.
Camilo Restrepo (1975, Medellín, Colombia). Bowling for Medillin I, 2014, Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York. Since 1999 the artist lives and works in Paris, France.
Dealers, Expo Chicago/2015.
Jan Matulka (American, 1890-1972), Seated Nude with Eyes Closed, oil on canvas, c. 1922, 48 x 34 1/2 in., Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago.
Augustus John, Portrait of a Young Woman, 1923, charcoal on paper, Browse & Darby, London.
Dayron Gonzalez, Momento de Gloria, 2015, oil on canvas, Cernuda Arte, Coral Gables, Florida.
Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, a contemporary art gallery in Culver City, California.
The photograph above depicts the three versions of Van Gogh’s “Bedroom” in Arles, France, in this blockbuster exhibition’s penultimate gallery.
From the collections (left to right) of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris (1889), The Art Institute of Chicago (1889), and the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (1888).
The three masterworks were gathered together side by side in North America for the first time in art history.
By John P. Walsh. May 6, 2016.
I saw the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago (February 14-May 10, 2016) on the last Friday afternoon before the show closed. The museum that day was drawing a large crowd and it was challenging to navigate through the multi-room art show in a mass of frequently immobile art lovers. Exactly for what cause some stationary patrons might be transfixed could only be speculated upon but often no art was present. No one I think comes to art shows to be caught in a logjam of people yet that recurrent phenomenon in Van Gogh’s Bedrooms soon became one of its unpleasant features. The expansive exhibition space—striking for its illogical reasoning to display three relatively small masterpieces—proved impractical, or at least a two-edged sword, in terms of containing its throngs.
Those three featured paintings are this show’s raison d’être and prove a marvelous highlight after reaching them by way of a dozen or so high-ceiling galleries. Once arrived to the show’s penultimate room, my eyes settled on the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam’s version as the most intriguing of the three superficially identical works. The other two versions are from the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
When 35-year-old Van Gogh painted his The Bedroom series starting in October 1888, the Dutchman had been an artist only a short while: about 7 years. This had followed a variety of other occupations, although Van Gogh began his professional life as an art dealer. By late 1888—less than two years before his death by self-inflicted gunshot in Auvers-sur-Oise in July 1890—Van Gogh had traveled long and far from his beginnings in North Brabant. He arrived into Paris in 1885 to paint and join his brother Theo who was an avant-garde art dealer in the Rue Montmartre. Looking to sell more of his artwork, he began painting in the bright Impressionist style for which Van Gogh is probably most famous today. By February 1888 Van Gogh relocated to Arles in the South of France on account of his health and to possibly start an art colony. Still quite poor and alone, this roughly 15-month period in Arles proved to be prolific for the artist’s production when Van Gogh completed 200 paintings, and over 100 drawings and watercolors. Many of Van Gogh’s most famous works were created in this fecund period—for example, his portraits of Eugène Boch (Musée d’Orsay), Postman Joseph Roulin and Augustine Roulin (both Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and Madame Ginoux (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) among several others; sunflowers and irises such as Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (National Gallery, London), Still Life: Vase with Fourteen Sunflowers (Neue Pinakothek, Munich) and Irises (Getty Museum, Los Angeles); 15 canvases of cypresses; and his iconic Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin in the Harvard Art Museums.
None of these contextual artworks were in the Chicago show but demonstrate the range and depth of Van Gogh’s artistic vision in the same time period that The Bedrooms—which shared his body of work’s intoxication with color and decorative strategies—were painted.Despite its title—Van Gogh’s Bedrooms—this show is not content to let their presence in Chicago suffice. Instead, much of the other parts of this massive show were from the Art Institute’s permanent collection of mostly Barbizon and Impressionist artwork. Perhaps if they had been left on whatever museum walls from which they had come, these fine artworks might have maintained an even greater impact for themselves and this show’s ultimate purpose than crowding them onto walls into this special exhibition space. That said, the condensed interpretive curatorial exercise of parts of the permanent collection in this show could prove interesting for visitors who are not willing or able to visit other parts of the museum. In a show that took on the formula of a typical Regenstein Hall blockbuster, its propensity for Impressionist rehash (“delve” was the museum’s word) had a boring art textbook’s sensibility. That the show dipped into the museum storehouse to retrieve the life-size maquette of the Yellow House from AIC’s vastly superior exhibition Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South in 2001, produced a dispiriting effect on at least one viewer who recognized it.But so far I am quibbling: this AIC exhibition brings together the powerful canon of all three versions of Van Gogh’s The Bedroom for the first time in North America which is very special and undoubtedly sufficient to any museum goer’s time and interest. I don’t believe, however, that their full artistic power was best served by being able to see these objects intensely advertised in the media markets and then only hung at the show’s virtual end following a cacophony of mostly extraneous art historical resources however severely earnestly presented. Instead, a surfeit of front-loaded artistic riches labors to obscure these significant Van Goghs that finally appear in the second to last gallery, all of which are jam-packed with art, people, various filmic explorations, somewhat bloviating wall texts, whole house reconstructions, etc.
Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, October 1888. 72.4 x 91.3 cm.
Chicago, 1889. 72.4 x 91.3 cm. Version Van Gogh painted in the asylum at St. Rémy.
Paris, 1889. 57.5 x 74 cm. Destitute bachelor artist Van Gogh gave this version to his mother and sister to assure them in part that he was working..
It is certainly obvious that Van Gogh’s Bedrooms possibly could have benefited by not pulling out all the stops (AIC: “in-depth study”) but to focus on the three colorful masterpieces uniquely gathered in their essential power. If one wants to read blow by blow explanations of virtually every curatorial application in the show, one might turn to other reviews cited in “Further Reading” below. The equitably in-depth appreciation of this trio of Van Gogh works—and minus the Disney World trappings—might be advanced using timed tickets (as done for Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Studio of the South) and within a pared down and simpler exhibition scope. The way things are constructed by the show’s curator Gloria Groom, Chair of European Painting and Sculpture at The Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition transmits encyclopedic knowledge while largely missing a tangible evocation of bachelor Van Gogh’s humble petit boulevard persona who produced in Arles in 1888 and in Saint-Rémy in 1889 these bold canvases of his simple bedroom and even gifting one of the versions (the one now in Paris) to his aged mother and sister to reassure them in his destitution. For Van Gogh the motif of his private and hard-featured bedroom in Arles continued his bold self-expression in a tightly woven and complex painting composed in broad outlines using a many-hued post-impressionistic palette in thick impasto. Despite Van Gogh’s reputation as mad—he mutilated his ear in this bedroom in December 1888—he soon carried on painting two more versions of The Bedroom (the last one slightly reduced) with the apparent added intention to express to his family and friends that the artist was as stable and restful as his artistic subject.
What should an exhibition advertised as Van Gogh’s Three Bedrooms wish to have its spectators looking for and come away with? By the time a visitor reaches Van Gogh’s three paintings after plowing through the aforesaid gauntlet of people and well-known Chicago art resources, the exhibition almost runs the danger of displaying these highly-prized artworks not as denouement but incidental. These Van Gogh paintings are hardly allowed to speak freely for themselves. Of course they have a fascinating history but to what degree should these particular artworks’ written history be simultaneous to their exhibition? Thinking of the viewer, does the display of three paintings of an artist’s bedroom (albeit Vincent Van Gogh’s) that when placed side by side measures the whole of about ten feet across merit thousands of cubic feet of mostly academic groundwork before a viewer can even see them? To what degree are artistic exhibition and their intellectual exposition necessarily complementary since many museum art shows follow this tactic?
The final gallery after the display of the three bedrooms continued Van Gogh’s Bedrooms’ devotion to comprehensive information and theatricality—although a side-by-side blow-up of the bedrooms’ diverging painterly details was perhaps the most useful techie display so to appreciate the artist’s handling of the individual paintings. Yet it begged a question: could this orientation to detail, to seeing the painting, somehow serve as the exhibition’s primary or sole introduction, such as in a film theater? This last gallery then led directly to the ubiquitous and depressing gift shop hosting the galleries’ multitude disporting themselves basically as they did in and among the art. Hearing its timbre I wondered if a unique opportunity to view together these three Van Gogh bedroom paintings—“the first time in North America”—had under- or overplayed its hand? As its elemental objective, had the exhibition Van Gogh’s Bedrooms rightly oriented and imparted to its viewers an intimate and perhaps personally revealing look into these three sensitive treasures of Van Gogh’s oeuvre? Or had the artist Van Gogh merely omitted to paint into his own scene the proverbial kitchen sink?
FEATURE Image: Glenn Kaino, Bridge, 2013. A section of a 100-foot long construction that features 200 gold casts of Tommie Smith’s arm in a raised fist salute that occured in the 1968 Summer Olympics on the medal podium during the national anthem after Smith broke a sprinting record to take gold.
EXPO CHICAGO 2013 is the 2rd annual exhibition of international contemporary and modern art held in Chicago at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall on September 19-22, 2013.
Tommie Smith is an American former track and field athlete and American Football League wide receiver. On October 16, 1968, the 24-year-old Smith won the 200-meter sprint finals and gold medal in 19.83 seconds at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
It was the first time the 20-second barrier was officially broken in competitive sports history. Atop the medal podium and with heads bowed, Smith’s Black Power salute with silver-medal-winner John Carlos protested racism and injustice against African-Americans in the United States.
Smith’s raised fist as the national anthem played is seen as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympics and caused memorable admiration and criticism.
In Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith (Temple University Press, 2008), Smith maintained that the gesture was not solely a “Black Power” salute but a “Human Rights” salute.
In any event, Smith’s raised fist salute in 1968 became one of the most iconic moments in the Olympic games and the history of the Black Power movement.
FEATURE image: Picasso, Bust of a Woman, late 1909, Watercolor and gouache on cream laid paper, laid down on buff laid paper, 363 x 278 mm overall.
Armory Show, International Exhibition of Modern Art. The Cubist room, Gallery 53 (northeast view), Art Institute of Chicago, March 24–April 16, 1913. On the long wall are three of seven Picasso artworks included in that landmark exhibition. None are in “Picasso and Chicago” in 2013.
By John P. Walsh.
Almost as long as Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was making his art, there have been bragging rights on the Catalan artist that have come from others. Even 40 years after the artist’s death at 91 years old, media talk in 2013 for Picasso and Chicago, a large art exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago from February 20 to May 12, 2013, revolves around American collector “firsts” associated with Picasso.
Which institution collected Picasso first? The Art Institute of Chicago in 1923.
Which institution collected Picasso most? The Chicago Renaissance Society by 1930.
Which institution had the first Picasso exhibition? The Arts Club of Chicago in 1923.
Which institution had the first Picasso retrospective? The Wadsworth Atheneumin Hartford, Connecticut in 1934.
The Art Institute of Chicago is able to put imagination aside and quote itself in Picasso and Chicago. Nearly all of the same inventory of Picasso artwork in this 2013 show were assembled and displayed in the exact same order in a previous exhibition at the museum called Picasso in Chicago held from February 3 to March 31, 1968. According to the museum director writing at that time, that exhibition had been inspired by the dedication of the Picasso sculpture on August 15, 1967, a five-story Cor-10 steel Chicago icon that still stands enigimatically in Daley Plaza. If public attention is what Pablo Picasso craves, then he should have no worries.
In the summer of 1906, during a working sojourn to Gósol in the Spanish Pyrenees, Picasso painted his mistress and muse, Fernande Olivier (French, 1881-1966).
Image above and below: Pablo Picasso, Nude with a Pitcher (detail).
Fernande Olivier and Pablo Picasso in 1905 in Paris.
The pairs of figures are related by both being involved in intimate activities, but represent two different subjects Picasso studied months apart. One dates from 1905 and the other from 1906. The pair on the right is a study for a major painting, La Coiffure, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
There are several excellent reasons to see Picasso and Chicago in 2013 and they don’t always revolve around his art. It is a matter for city pride to know that Chicago possesses within its own collections the breadth of art resources to showcase, in chronological order, this Picasso show comprehensive of every major period. In these tight economic times kudos goes out to museum curators who have effectively displayed a vast amount and range of artwork by Pablo Picasso to produce a blockbuster show. The chronological exhibition of Picasso’s art includes works from The Art Institute of Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago and The Renaissance Society and is front loaded providing for immediate pleasures.
The visitor is greeted nearly at the door by The Old Guitarist painted by Picasso in 1903-1904—a revered Blue Period painting in the Art Institute—and for the viewer to be edified by its presence is worth any exhibition’s admission price though there was no special exhibition fee beyond the price of general admission to the museum.
If front-loaded, does the rest of the show retain the same high interest? The answer is: yes and no. For all future Picasso shows in Chicago, curators can find several avenues to whittle away at the volume of artwork on display for Picasso and Chicago to present its most interesting parts. That downsizing opportunity intimates this show’s arguable shortcoming: as it displays the Spanish master’s later, increasingly commercial artwork, the Art Institute of Chicago’s 500 Picasso works in all mediums begins to reveal the challenges of building a seamlessly qualitative collection of contemporary art even when the artist is Picasso.
In late May 1901 Picasso came to Paris with three weeks to prepare for an exhibition at Vollard’s gallery. The exhibition was arranged by a Catalan dealer who roomed with the 19-year-old Picasso on the Boulevard de Clichy. Crazy Woman with Cats is one of the 64 paintings and several drawings Picasso prepared for the show.
Robert Allerton, a museum trustee since 1918, began to acquire Picasso drawings in 1923 with the sole purpose of donating them to the museum. Sketch of a young woman was Allerton’s first Picasso drawing purchase and museum donation in 1923 purchased in Chicago from Albert Roullier Galleries.
By the end of 1906 Picasso stopped painting and instead started to fill sketchbooks for a new major composition: Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) today in The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Picasso, Two Nudes, Standing, fall 1906 Graphite, with stumping, on cream laid paper (detail).
In the early 1920’s as Chicago started a buying frenzy of Picasso, another young Spanish painter twelve years younger than Picasso arrived into Paris and was immediately overtly critical of the great Picasso’s work at that time. That younger painter was Joan Miró (1893-1983).
Miró’s criticism of Picasso as well as of Henri Matisse (1869-1954)— it was more a kind of disgust—was basically that the pair, once young avant-gardists, were making all their art for their dealer. In other words, the older artists were making contemporary art mainly for the money. Such may be an inherent risk in making art that meets a market demand in that the artist is tempted to, after a fashion, sell-out. Miró knew at first look—and history has proven him basically correct—that the future of contemporary painting no longer rested in Picasso’s hands after about 1920. This is partly the reason why Miró turned to the “nonsense” art of the Dadaists for the future of his own painting.
Keeping Miro’s judgment in one’s mind at Picasso and Chicago one sees that, notable exceptions made, an earlier Picasso painting—from the Blue Period after 1901 to Picasso’s period of synthetic cubism until around 1920—offers cohesive artwork that contains a germ or seed of progress. The art collection in Picasso and Chicago, much of it produced following Miró’s critical judgment of Picasso, shares his problematic.
The Red Armchair of 1931 is hung at what is about the show’s halfway point. At this point, I might have exited. Yet where Miró’s critical judgment lags for me is that Picasso’s art is never incompetent or boring. His art is perceptibly linear and, despite its erotic themes, often contains qualities which satisfy and cleanse an art-hungry eye. Picasso’s art is ever ancient and ever new, and distinctly European. For me, seeing a Picasso connotes a stroll in Paris or feeling a sunburn on the face after revelry and reverie along some Mediterranean coast. Quite readily the show produced these kinds of vicarious experiences for me as i soaked up a plethora of Picasso’s later, lesser work in utilitarian Regenstein Hall.
Just before leaving Paris in September 1920, Picasso made a series of drawings of the Greek myth of the abduction of Hercules’ bride Deianira by the centaur Nessus. With this, Picasso became fascinated with Greek mythology and continued to make artwork using its themes.
Paintings and drawings by Picasso in winter 1909-10 continued to explore Cubism as it related to the human face and figure and its surroundings.
The painting (at left) of a Head of a Woman is one of the early Cubist artworks in “Picasso and Chicago.”
This painting dates to one of the most productive and inventive periods of Pablo Picasso’s career, a summer stay in the town of Horta de Ebro (now Horta de San Juan) in Spain, which lasted, with minor interruptions, from May to September of 1909. In these months, Picasso produced a series of landscapes, heads, and still lifes that are among the most highly acclaimed achievements of early Cubism. Fernande Olivier, Picasso’s mistress, was the model for the series of heads that the artist produced at this time.
This work is Pablo Picasso’s first large Cubist sculpture and represents the distinctive physiognomy of Fernande Olivier, who was the artist’s model and mistress from 1905 to 1912. Before making the bust, Picasso produced countless drawings and gouaches to explore the specific form and structure of his subject’s facial features. Her hair is in a coil and a topknot; her bulging jaw; her well-defined depression in the center of her upper lip. The Fernande series’ evolved from an agility of facial expression to fixed signs of its individual features.
German-born Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884-1979) opened an art gallery in Paris in 1907. In 1908 Kahnweiler began representing Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and introduced him to Georges Braque (1882-1963). Kahnweiler championed these artists’ revolutionary experiment with Cubism and purchased most of their paintings between 1908 and 1915. Kahnweiler sat for Picasso up to thirty times for this portrait.
Portrait photograph of Pablo Picasso, 1908.
Olga Khokhlova (1891-1955) in Picasso’s Montrouge studio, spring 1918. Olga married Picasso on July 12, 1918, at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Paris. On February 4, 1921, she gave birth to their son Paulo (1921-1975). After that, Olga and Picasso’s relationship deteriorated though they never divorced. Olga died in Cannes in 1955.
Picasso, Still Life, February 4, 1922, Oil on canvas 32 1/8 x 39 5/8 in. (81.6 x 100.3 cm), Dated, u.l.: “4-2-22-.” Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment, 1953. Picasso produced a series of Cubist still lifes in 1922 that are simplified to flat planes in a patterned framework. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) bought this canvas in 1923 to add to her collection of more than 30 Picasso paintings and even more of his drawings and watercolors. This still life was Stein’s last purchase of a painting by Picasso.
In late summer and fall of 1932, Picasso and Marie-Thérèse Walter (French, 1909-1977), the artist’s mistress from 1927 to 1935, were together in Boisgeloup. Picasso made three drawings on the same day on a theme of lovers serenading one another.
Marie-Thérèse Walter and Pablo Picasso. Their relationship began when she was seventeen and Picasso was 45 years old and married to Olga Khokhlova.
Picasso transforms the bullfighting theme where the half-man and half-bull Minotaur is the aggressor in the ring terrorizing a horse.
Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) met Picasso in 1936 at the Café des Deux Magots in Paris. Her liaison with Picasso ended in 1943.
About making portraits of his mistress Dora Maar weeping, Picasso explained: “For years, I’ve painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism and not through pleasure either – just obeying a vision that forced himself on me.” At the end of their relationship Picasso confessed, “I can only see her weeping.”
Gilot was lover and muse to Picasso from 1943 to 1953. In the early 1990s I met Françoise Gilot accompanied by her husband, Jonas Sauk (1914-1995), when she was the featured speaker at the Alliance Française in Chicago. That evening Gilot made it perfectly clear upfront that she was not going to talk about Picasso.
Jacqueline Roque was muse and second wife of Pablo Picasso. Their marriage lasted 11 years until his death, during which time he created over 400 portraits of her, more than any of Picasso’s other loves.
Picasso and Jacqueline, his second wife. Pablo Picasso met Jacqueline Roque (1927-1986) in 1953 when she was 26 years old and he was 72. He romanced her until she agreed to date him. Only in 1955, when Picasso’s first wife Olga Khokhlova died, did Picasso decide to marry Jacqueline in Vallauris in 1961. They were married until Picasso’s death in 1973.
There are 250 items on display in Picasso and Chicago—including paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and ceramics—and only begins to manifest the prodigious genius of Pablo Picasso.
Picasso and Chicago may have closed, but many, if not most, of these works in Chicago’s cultural institutions and private collections can be savored with the simplicity of a museum visit. A visitor can do no better than visit The Art Institute of Chicago and see Picasso’s The Old Guitarist and The Red Armchair. By that begins one’s own new adventure of absorption of the Spanish master’s artwork whose home is Chicago. The 2013 show is over but more than a few of its best parts are on display right now in these institutions’ permanent collections.
FEATURE image: P.A.-Renoir, A Luncheon at Bougival, 1881, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. The Seventh Impressionist Exhibition – 1882.
By John P. Walsh
In the five years between the “balanced and coherent” Third Impressionist Art Exhibition in April 1877 and the penultimate Seventh Impressionist Art Exhibition in March 1882 which included Gustave Caillebotte’s The Bezique Game, significant changes had occurred in the art world.
One major development that was especially impactful for the band of independent and ever-varying avant-garde artists known as the “impressionists” was that, after 1877, the group had fallen apart.
The Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 organized by Caillebotte and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) demonstrated the benefit of a detailed marketing plan within a professional arts organization. Caillebotte’s attempted follow-up to host an impressionist exhibition in 1878, however, failed to get off the ground.
It wasn’t for any lack of his trying. In 1877, Caillebotte could measure success in the Third show by 18-count modern artists under a new brand name, along with 230 works. Show attendance numbers were up from the first and second exhibitions almost four fold. Picture sales were up.
In less than one year, the enterprise devolved to nothing tangible. This was because of a lack of collective coherence among the artists in terms of artistic and business outlook. Seeds of destruction among this klatch of mostly young, avant-garde artists became increasingly evident during the “glorious” 1877 show.
Caillebotte’s genius in the Third Exhibition was to know strengths to promote and problem to ignore. He avoided the veritable train wreck coming from associated artists who were antagonistic creatively by keeping them mostly literally physically apart.
The Impressionists had two major factions. One was led by classically-trained Edgar Degas (1834-1917) with his realist urban figure drawing. The other was the nonacademic, “broken-brush” innovators or strict impressionists such as Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) who explored the effects of light.
For the duration of the Third Impressionist exhibition, all of Degas’s 25 beach and ballet works hung in a room of their own.
As a business seeks popular and financial success, a caveat towards that objective for the third and upcoming 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th impressionist art shows was “the terrible Monsieur Degas.”
Although Degas had an argumentative personality, major reasons for Degas’s dispute with Caillebotte’s impresionist show were not Degas’ making. After 1877, the battle line which ensued between Degas and his group of trained artists and Monet and his nonacademic group affected every next impressionist show up to the 8th and last one in 1886.
The catalyst for the Impressionists’ artistic divisions was their different understandings of what became another major development to affect the art world and all contemporary artists.
Throughout the 1860s, the Salon continued to be anti-democratic. By the late 1870s, there was a clear trend towards a more liberalized Salon. In 1881, the French government took itself out of the Salon. Even before that, in 1878, the year of the scrapped 4th Impressionist show, the government allowed strict or “broken brush” Impressionists like Monet and Renoir to participate in their “Exhibition of Living Artists.”
Biggest art show in Paris.
Whatever its drawbacks, the Salon remained the biggest art show in Paris.
While Caillebotte’s Third Impressionist Exhibition in 1877 attracted 15,000 visitors in its one month run—a remarkable statistic—the Salon attracted 23,000 visitors per day.
The Salon displayed around 23x more art than the Impressionist show and attracted 50x more visitors. Opportunities for sales and new clients at one of these nineteenth-century warehouse events was immense.
In 1878, after years of fighting for greater participation in the Salon— the Salon des Refusés took place in 1863—innovative Impressionists were finally allowed to freely hang their artwork in an annual show that for hundreds of years had been the institurional enclave of the Paris art world’s elite.
Yet, In terms of the 4th impressionist art show, the bourgeois Degas devised an ingeniously small-minded idea that he presented ennobled by some principle.
Despite this historic opening of the Salon to young avant-garde artists—Monet and Renoir were in their late 30’s, Degas in his mid 40’s—the older and financially secure artist insisted that all impressionists must make a choice.
Either exhibit in the Salon or with the Impressionists.
Degas’s ultimatum was crafted to pressure the “broken brush” impressionists such as Renoir, Monet, Sisley and Cézanne to break ranks to the Salon—and likely improve their sales and reputations in a rapidly changing art market—and leave the impressionist art organization to Degas and his followers.
Degas’s wedge actually worked. By 1880, the “broken brush” impressionists were purged from the Impressionist exhibitions by their own choice to exhibit in the Salon. Though they saw no conflict with the Impressionist art organization per se that broken brush artists helped found, Degas’s ultimatum had been permitted to stand for the 4th, 5th, and 6th impressionist art shows and helped secure these Impressionist shows of 1879, 1880, and 1881 under the leadership of Degas.
The 4th, 5th, and 6th exhibitions featured Degas and his favorite artists. It was in these Degas-led shows that the public had their first in-depth look at Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), among others.
Not all of the Impressionists’ original members and strict impressionists decided to exhibit in the Salon. Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot (1841-1895) chose to stay in the independent art group and continued doing so for the eight shows. (Morisot had a baby during the 4th and didn’t participate).
Gustave Caillebotte had invested his talent, reputation and resources into the independents since 1876 and continued to organize and exhibit with them in 1879 and 1880. Before the 6th show in 1881, Caillebotte himself finally broke with the Degas regime in a dispute nominally over a advertising issue.
As the calendar proclaimed a new decade, new opportunities for Impressionist exhibitions began percolating in Caillebotte’s head as he painted The Bezique Game (1880) within the shifting artistic environment.
The game of Bezique is a 64-card game for two players and curiously French. In the game two singles players sit across the net to compete to 1000 points. The rest are score keepers or observers. As the game carries on, card “tricks” pile up on the table.
Some art critics viewing Caillebotte’s contemporary subject of a popular game identified the painting as a “legible and tightly ordered” image out of the long-held pictorial tradition of card playing. Yet idiomatic clichés related to card playing such as “playing one’s cards right” or “holding one’s cards close to the chest” may be read into the painting. It is one of the canvasses painted by impressionist artists during this time that relate to the Impressionist group’s recent and ongoing exhibition experiences.
Nineteenth-century art critics usually grouped together the artwork of Caillebotte and Degas, Neither artist was among the “strict” impressionists such as of Monet and Renoir. Several critics wondered aloud in the newspaper why Caillebotte would even have dealings with those “broken-brush” daubers now at the Salon with Édouard Manet.
Competition between Degas’s partisans and the mostly younger strict impressionists such as Claude Monet, Renoir, and others, resulted in a schism in 1879. In addition to himself, Degas recruited talented newcomers such as Mary Cassatt (1844-1926), Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931), and Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917) for the 4th.
The Third Impressionist Art Exhibition held in April 1877 is known as “Caillebotte’s Exhibition.” It is the highlight of the eight Impressionist exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. While scholars agree that the Third Impressionist Exhibition was in every sense “glorious,” the show’s euphoria was short lived. Two weeks after the show closed, as hope for picture sales grew high, there was a Constitutional crisis in the French government. The political turmoil resulted in a consolidation of Republican power defeating Royalists which led to a national economic recession. The Impressionist group, conceived and carefully built to unity by Gustave Caillebotte, resorted to squabbling as the artists jostled to survive in receding good times.
Gustave Caillebotte’s efforts for a fourth impressionist exhibition in 1878 were stymied and the next 3 exhibitions would be under Degas’s rule. In 1879 Degas exclude the “broken brish” artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne and Alfred Sisley. In 1880, Degas cast out Claude Monet. The destructive outcome of these intramural politics was not lost on Caillebotte.
Caillebotte built the group’s brand in the Third Impressionist Art Exhibition in 1877 largely on “broken brush” impressionists nwho were excluded from Degas’s shows. Caillebotte, however, worked with Edgar Degas and his artistic coterie in 1879, 1880 and 1881. Oy was before the opening of the Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in 1881 that Caillebotte finally departed the Degas-led organization. Caillebotte cited differences on an advertising issue.
Yet Caillebotte’s nonparticipation with the Impressionists was short lived.
The 32-year-old Caillebotte looked to a retro-style vision for an Impressionist Art Exhibition in 1882. His emerging partner was 51-year-old Impressionist art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922).
The Fifth exhibition lost Monet to the Salon which per Degas’s ultimatum excluded the figurehead through which the term “impressionism” received its label in 1874 from exhibiting with the group of independents in 1880. Other broken or free brush painters such as Camille Pissarro and Berthe Morisot did continue to exhibit in the 5th show. Ironically, critics responded to the truncated, Degas-led show, by wondering out loud what made this Impressionist show any different than a recently liberated Salon. While Morisot and American Mary Cassatt’s artwork received especial attention and praise in the 5th show, the month-long April 1880 show also introduced important newcomers to its Paris audience such as Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) and Jean-François Raffaëlli (1850-1924).
Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot continued their impact as the most progressive impressionists according to critics during the 6th Impressionist show in 1881. Morisot’s Nurse and Baby was startlingly abstract to viewers of the 1881 show. Zandomeneghi’s Place d’Anvers quietly inspired artists to explore anew early Renaissance Italian mural painting. Raffaëlli, displaying over 30 works in the 6th show, made a huge impact for his realist, socially aware artwork. The 6th show’s centerpiece was Degas’ statuette of the ballet student in a fabric tutu that put impressionism in 3D and affected modern sculpture going forward. Gustave Caillebotte who had participated in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th impressionist exhibitions (and would the 7th) as well as organized the 3rd, 4th, and 5th (and would the 7th), bowed out of participating at all in the 6th show.
The Seventh Impressionist Art Exhibition: Caillebotte and Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922)
The changing art market in the 1870s had taken a financial toll on the art dealer’s modern art business. Durand-Ruel re-tooled his dealership to focus not on large-scale group shows but small shows of individual artists. Overall the French economy had sunk into hard times and big shows cost more money. Following the disastrous Hôtel Drouot auction in 1875—which Durand-Ruel believed was an attempt by his critics to discredit him as an art dealer—the well-stocked Impressionist art dealer reluctantly agreed to go forward with Caillebotte’s exhibition plan for 1882. Caillebotte convinced the dealer that the Seventh show would earn a small profit.
Caillebotte’s main hook was to re-integrate the excluded “broken brush” or “strict” impressionists including Renoir and Claude Monet. Degas and his faction of artists including Mary Cassatt stayed away from the Seventh Impressionist exhibition though Paul Gauguin was represented. Also missing was the artist of Aix, Paul Cézanne, who was experimenting with volumes in the south of France. Cézanne would not be seen in a Paris art show until 1895 when a huge body of his work was featured in a landmark retrospective exhibition at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery.
Caillebotte’s first move was to secure the popular Renoir for the upcoming March 1882 show. Renoir sent 24 new works, including his iconic large-format A Luncheon at Bougival (Un déjeuner à Bougival). Durand-Ruel insisted on a standardized presentation, including simple white frames for every work. In addition to Monet and Renoir, the seventh show hailed a triumphant return for Alfred Sisley. Camille Pissarro displayed several paintings of peasant girls. His tiny pseudo-pointillist brushstrokes overlaid with occasional dabs of thicker paint, built up an uneven surface that integrated the figure and background which worked to visually mimic the textures of the sitter’s wool clothing.
Caillebotte sent 17 works to the show. The Bezique Game (Partie de bésigue) painted in 1880, was joined by Rising Road (Chemin Montant) painted in 1881. This latter work’s path hardly rises—a feature that contributed to the canvas’s mystery. The question was asked whether it was a reprise of the “enhanced perspective” that aggravated critics in 1876 when they saw it in The Floor Scrapers.
Rising Road is painted with a free handling of colors in the loose brushwork style of Monet and Renoir whose closer re-acquaintance Caillebotte made. One critic poked fun at the painting’s mysterious pair as viewers wondered with him who is “the conjugal couple…seen from the back” ? Their identities and location are uncertain although speculation has put Caillebotte in the painting with his lifelong companion Charlotte Berthier.
Rising Road (Chemin Montant) has had only two owners since 1881. It sold in 2003 for nearly $7 million ($6,727,500) at Christie’s in New York City,
Gustave Caillebotte and Impressionist art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel organized the exhibition which marked the triumphant return of the broken-brush or strict Impressionists, such as Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In many ways it was Renoir’s wide-ranging artwork that was the star of the 7th show.
FEATURE image: Gustave Caillebotte, Paris street; a rainy day (Rue de Paris, Temps de pluie), 1877, The Art Institute of Chicago. Caillebotte submitted his painting to the Third Impressionist Art Exhibition held in Paris in 1877.
The first Impressionist exhibition was held in Paris in 1874. Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) who had in 1875 divided a more than two-million-franc inheritance with his older half-brother and Catholic priest Alfred (1834-1896) and younger brother Martial (1853-1910 did not participate with the Impressionists in that watershed show.
Henri Rouart (1833-1912) was of the same high class circle as his neighbor Caillebotte and one of the two signatures on a formal invitation to Caillebotte inviting him to exhibit in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876. The other signatory was Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).
Caillebotte accepted and sent eight paintings including his famous The Floor Scrapers (Les raboteurs de parquet) that today hangs in the Museé D’Orsay.
Rejected by the Salon
The Impressionists were not purists to their collective cause and to varying degrees many of them if reluctantly exhibited in the French government’s annual exhibition known as the Salon. Despite its attempts at modernism, the Salon remained a conservative venue and while The Floor Scrapers of 1875 was exhibited in the Impressionist show in 1876 it had been rejected by the Salon in the previous year.
Artwork called “vulgar” and “leftist”
In addition to its subject matter and artificially enhanced perspective, The Floor Scrapers was called “vulgar” and “leftist” by critics because the painting commutes the nude—a traditional academic subject—into the Impressionist specialty of a modern life subject.
The floor scrapers in the painting are not removing old wax as might be first suspected. Their efforts show them working in a new building where they are preparing the wood by inducing its buckling with water and scraping it smooth.
Gustave Caillebotte’s Dinner Invitation Leads to the Exquisite Third Impressionist Exhibition of 1877
Richard R. Brettell, chair in Art and Aesthetics at the University of Texas at Dallas, states plainly that in January or February 1877 a soirée of seven male artists constituted what was “arguably the most important dinner party of painters held in the nineteenth century.”
The reason for this social occasion was all business—specifically, to ponder and discuss the future of French modern art. It was hosted in the well-appointed Paris apartment of fellow artist Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) on Rue Miromesnil in the Faubourg Saint- Honoré in Paris.
The clubby dinner idea and its invitation to artists ranging in age from 28-year-old Caillebotte to 49-year-old Pissarro was the initiative of those two arists as evidenced in a surviving letter from Caillebotte to Pissarro. In the letter, haute bourgeois Caillebotte invites sometime anarchist and socialist Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) to this smart-set gathering and shares with Pissarro an advance guest list.
Monday night dinner of Impressionists
Five of the greatest avant-garde painters of their generation joined Caillebotte and Pissarro on the next Monday night. They were: Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), and Édouard Manet (1832-1883), “the dean” of modern artists. If Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was not in self-imposed exile in Switzerland for being unwilling to pay a heavy indemnity to the French Government and Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) was not creating misunderstood masterpieces even by avant-garde standards, the tally in Caillebotte’s suite of rooms would still fit Richard Brettell’s description.
Caillebotte’s aim was direct. He wanted to facilitate frank and fruitful discussion among these artists to set an agenda and strategy for the future of French modern painting. Their plans included a third exhibition of their so-called “new painting.” A likely agenda item was marketing for these modern artists’ first exhibition that was advertised as “Impressionist.” Such is the an ambiguous moniker of descriptive iconography and critical valuation that endured.
Modern art show on the new Paris Boulevards
Caillebotte selected the venue for the April 1877 show. It was a five-room luxury apartment in the heart of Baron Haussmann’s newly-constructed Paris. The capital’s boulevards became a symbol of French wealth, modernity, and prestige.
Caillebotte’s organizational methods worked. The Third Impressionist Exhibition is judged to be “the most balanced and coherent” of the eight exhibitions held between 1874 and 1886. Gustave Caillebotte contrived, solicited and arranged for what he wanted to see as a “democratic” exhibition of 230 works representing 18 artists. In its 30-day run, the exhibition attracted 500 attendees per day.
Caillebotte sent six of his paintings to the show including his iconic Paris Street: A Rainy Day. It hangs today in The Art Institute of Chicago though in 2012 and until January 20, 2013 it was loaned out to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Brettell thinks it is fair to say that Caillebotte had just one notable set back during this third exhibition affair—the young art show producer and artist was unable to convince Édouard Manet to “desert the Salon and join forces with the Impressionists” to exhibit with them.
Sources: The New Painting: Impressionism 1874-1886, 1986, Charles S. Moffet.
Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist, 1995, Anne Distel, editor.