Category Archives: Curator

New to View: Lithographs by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

By Margaret Burgess
Susan Donnell and Harry W. Konkel Associate Curator of European Art

Bonne semaine! This week we unveiled a new display of European art at the PMA. You will discover an installation of four lithographs by French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). This special display was inspired by The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism exhibition (on view until September 8th), which also features the art of Toulouse-Lautrec.

Toulouse-Lautrec grew up in a wealthy aristocratic family in France. His father was an amateur artist and encouraged his son’s budding talent for drawing. Early on Toulouse-Lautrec painted mainly horses and sporting subjects—enduring themes for him as we see in the lithograph Babylone d’Allemagne (above) with its horse and rider. Soon the theatres and music halls rapidly bubbling up in Paris captured Toulouse-Lautrec’s attention. He was drawn to depicting individuals on the margins of society—prostitutes, dancers, washerwomen—and his sympathy for these figures perhaps derived from his own feelings of otherness due to a physical deformity from which he suffered. Influenced in large part by Japanese prints (ukiyo-e) with their decisive lines, dramatic cropping, and use of color and diagonals, Toulouse-Lautrec developed his bold style. Paul Gauguin, whom he came to know, was also an important inspiration, and the influence of Gauguin’s use of strong outlines and flat patterning is also evident in Toulouse-Lautrec’s work of the late 1880s and 1890s. Toulouse-Lautrec capitalized on innovations in lithography at this time, which allowed for larger scale prints and the use of a greater spectrum of colors. By the 1890s, he had established himself as a premier lithographer and received significant commissions for advertisements—as seen in the lithographs in our display. Though he died young and his career was short-lived, Toulouse-Lautrec left an enduring legacy on the worlds of art and graphic design.

The works are generously on loan from Isabelle and Scott Black.

Come visit the museum and immerse yourself in the world of Toulouse-Lautrec and French modernism! You will find many connections between the Paley Collection and our holdings here at the PMA.

Thoughts on “Fox Hunt”

PMA Curator of American Art, Karen Sherry, shares her insights on Winslow Homer’s masterpiece, Fox Hunt. Rarely leaving its home at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, we are grateful to have this iconic work in our exhibition Weatherbeaten: Winslow Homer and Maine, on view through December 30, 2012.

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Winslow Homer, "Fox Hunt," 1893, oil on canvas, 38 x 68 1/2 inches. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Joseph E. Temple Fund. Photo: Barbara Katus.

Bonjour Monet and Étretat!

By Margaret Burgess
Susan Donnell and Harry W. Konkel Associate Curator of European Art

2012 has been a tremendously exciting year for European art here at the Museum, with three exhibitions devoted to artists painting in Europe, and especially in France. With shows such as Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist (February 23–May 28, 2012), From Portland to Paris: Mildred Burrage’s Years in France (April 21–July 15, 2012), and The Draw of the Normandy Coast, 1860–1960, currently on view in our main exhibition galleries (until September 3), the PMA demonstrates a strong commitment to the European agenda.

For the summer show, The Draw of the Normandy Coast, we are thrilled to have assembled four paintings by the great French master Claude Monet. Thanks to major loans from the Isabelle and Scott Black Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art, we are treated to a fabulous quartet of masterworks by Monet.

Three of Monet’s paintings date from his time in Étretat, a small village along the French coast—northeast of the ports of Le Havre and Honfleur. Étretat is known for its dramatic rock formations and stony beach. Monet’s The Manneporte Seen from Below, circa 1884, which is generously on loan from the Isabelle and Scott Black Collection, is boldly displayed at the entrance to the exhibition, with the paintings from Philadelphia and New York prominently hung nearby. Monet descended on Éretat between 1883 and 1886, focusing on the Manneporte, or “Magna Porta” (“Great Gate”), the stunning rock formation that juts out into the English Channel. Étretat made a profound impression on Monet and the works that resulted are symphonies in blue with azure, turquoise, topaz—sublime and transfixing. As he wrote in a letter to Alice Hoschedé, “I can’t help myself from being seduced by these admirable cliffs.”

Assembling these impressive loans from this seminal series by Monet was a dream come true. They allow and invite one to take in the magnitude of Monet’s painting campaigns along the Normandy coast. Monet’s paintings are displayed in the first gallery surrounded by works showing Étretat by American and French artists including Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, George Inness, and Eugène-Louis Boudin. Looking around the gallery of these paintings of Étretat, we invite you to make your own comparisons and to explore how different artists, from Monet to the Maine artist Samuel Colman, looked at the same natural arches, cliffs, and coastline under different lighting conditions and from various vantage points.

This summer I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Étretat and to walk the same cliffs that Monet walked, and to study the graceful arch as he did. It is a spectacular place and my time there is forever sealed in my mind’s eye. I fully understand why Monet and so many artists were drawn there. The weather and lighting change dramatically there, as it does here in Maine, and no two glimpses of the cliffs and arches ever seem the same. When I was there in the morning, I felt as if the wind would sweep me off the cliff, and I heard the waves churn the stones on the beach with the tide. Later in the afternoon the sun shone and at night, the arches were specially lit up, creating a spectacular effect.

A rope crosses the steep path down to the Manneporte’s beach, so you can no longer go down the path that Monet and his colleagues once did. And with the tide coming in, I did not have quite the courage to go through the Trou a l’homme, a small tunnel in the rock that you can go through only at low tide in order to get from one beach to the next, as Monet did. But I did finally fully understand the paths that he would have taken and the power of the place. And though these paths were closed, my heart was open and full to the brim with an appreciation of the beauty of this and many special places along the Normandy coast!