Tag Archives: french moderns

Farewell to the French Moderns

I gave my last two tours of the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Thursday and Friday.  The Thursday tour was for thirty three university students taking an art history course and the Friday tour was for eighteen grade three students from a private Winnipeg school.  The university students didn’t talk much.  They listened intently though and many were busy making notes since they had an assignment to do based on the tour.  The eight year olds were buzzing and full of queries, comments and ideas. They were so excited to be at the art gallery!

I have toured many different kinds of groups through the French Moderns exhibit since June, from three year olds to senior citizens. In the process I have come to know many of the people in the paintings as friends.  During my last two tours I bid a fond farewell to them. 

The solemn and charming siblings in The Elder Sister by William Bourguereau. 

The three amazingly strong and beautiful women in Jules Breton’s The End of the Working Day. The colorful Egyptian entrepreneur in Jean-Léon Gérôme’s The Carpet Merchant of Cairo. 

The perfectly posed and winesome Young Girl on A Bench by Édouard Manet.

The entrancing American philanthropist Florence Blumenthal in Giovanni Boldini’s Portrait of a Lady. 

The doting mother and her loving child in Berthe Morisot’s portrait of her cousin Mme Boursier and Her Daughter

The pensive and lovely Madame Léon Maître by Henri-Fantis Latour. 

The aloof distracted woman and the woman throughly engaged with her child In The Omnibus by Mary Cassatt. 

The hardy windblown French farmer in Shepherd Tending his Flock by Jean-Francois Millet.The mysterious veiled lady in Marie Laurencin’s Woman in Scarf.

When I go to the Winnipeg Art Gallery this morning for a meeting the process of taking down all these paintings of my friends will have begun.  I am going to miss them. 

Other posts……….

Japanese Art and the Impressionists

Tantalizing Tidbits

Without Him We Might Not Even Recognize the Name Monet

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A Tale of Two Portraits

They dominate the room!   “Who are those people?”  That’s what visitors on my tours say immediately upon entering the third gallery of the French Moderns show currently at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. They are drawn to a pair of huge portraits, one of a man and one of a woman facing each other on the gallery’s walls.  

kees van dongen william davenportThe man is William S. Davenport. He was an American dental surgeon living and working in France in 1925 when his portrait was painted.  The tiny red mark on his suit lapel represents the French Legion of Honor he was awarded for his work in the American Ambulance Core during World War I as the assistant chief of the facial and jaw reconstructive surgery division. He served as a dentist to the Belgian royal family and was one of the first dentists to have his testimony in court accepted for using dental records to identify human remains. According to his obituary Mr. Davenport was also an artist himself and good friends with the American painter James Whistler. 

The artist who painted Mr. Davenport was Kees Van Dongen. He was born in Rotterdam where he worked in the family brewery, studying art in the evenings.  He moved to Paris in 1897 and remained there for most of his life. He was part of the Fauve art movement whose artists were known for the use of bright color hence the bright red and blue markings on Mr. Davenport’s face. Kees Van Dongen was really more famous for painting portraits of women than men and when he was in his eighties painted an iconic one of French actress Brigitte Bardot. bondini florence blumenthal

The woman is Florence Meyer Blumenthal.  Florence was also an American living in Paris.  She and her husband had one home in Paris, and another in the South of France but still maintained a home in New York as well.  Florence Blumenthal was also awarded the French Legion of Honor in her case for donating money to a Paris Children’s Hospital and establishing the Prix Blumenthal a grant awarded each year to a young French artist to aid them financially and to draw the United States and France closer together through the arts. Florence was a sister to the publisher of the Washington Post Eugene Meyer and an aunt to his daughter Kay Graham(think the movie The Post) who eventually became the paper’s publisher. Florence and her husband George donated millions of dollars to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as to New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital in memory of their son George Jr.  who died as a young boy.  

The portrait of Florence Blumenthal was painted by Giovanni Boldini an Italian artist who moved to Paris in 1872 and was good friends with impressionist painter Edgar Degas. Interestingly like Mr. Davenport, the dentist, Boldini was also good friends with the  American artist James Whistler and Boldini’ s portrait of Whistler is a part of the Brooklyn Museum collection as are the portraits of Davenport and Blumenthal. In almost all his portraits of women Boldini has them pose in evening gowns.  According to an article in The Daily Art Magazine Boldini used swirling loose brushstrokes to have those gowns take on a life of their own.  His nickname was The Master of Swish

If you haven’t already been to see the French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery you need to come.  These portraits are only two of the many intriguing artworks on display. 

Other posts…..

Who is She? 

Impressionist? 

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

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Who Is She?

marie laurencin woman in scarf“Who is she?”  On Saturday after I gave my first tour of The French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery a woman stayed behind to ask me about a painting that intrigued her.  It was called Femme au Foulard or Woman With A Scarf. She thought the woman in the painting looked sort of mysterious and melancholy. The gallery visitor had never heard of Marie Laurencin the artist and I had to confess I hadn’t either.  I thanked the woman for her interest and promised I’d find out more about Marie Laurencin.  

Marie_Laurencin,_c.1912,_Paris

Marie Laurencin in 1912

I’ve since learned that Marie was a French artist who lived from 1883-1956.  She was an illegitimate child raised in Paris by her aloof and authoritarian mother and a mostly absentee father who was married to another woman. Like the great impressionist painter Renoir who got his start painting porcelain, Marie did porcelain painting in Sevres France before returning  to her Paris birthplace and studying oil painting.  

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Group of Artists painted by Marie Laurencin in 1908 features Marie with artist Pablo Picasso to her left and writer Guillaume Apollinaire to her right. Picasso’s model and muse Fernande Olivier is leaning on her hand.

In Paris Marie met the painters Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau and began a six-year relationship with Guillaume Apollinaire a poet, playwright and short story writer and a great fan of the cubist art movement. Their relationship ended in 1913. Marie married a German baron in 1914. She would later divorce her alcoholic husband and never married again. 

alice in wonderland illustration by marie laurencin

Alice in Wonderland illustration by Marie Laurencin

Marie was a painter, printmaker and stage designer.  She illustrated the 1930 edition of Alice in Wonderland.

Portrait of author Somerset Maugham by Marie Laurencin

In 1936 she painted a portrait of her friend the British playwright Somerset Maugham who had a home on the French Riveria. She usually charged men double what she charged women for portraits but her Maugham portrait was a gift to him.  

Le Bal élégant, La Danse à la campagne by Marie Laurencin- 1913

Marie often exhibited with Cubist artists but her paintings weren’t typical of that art movement. Her work has been described as soft, pastel and feminine a real contrast to the vivid, geometrical work of many Cubists. A friend once said….. “there is something of a fairy wand in the brush of Marie Laurencin.” 

Marie_Laurencin-Tete_de_Jeune_Fille_1909_

Tete de Jeune Fille or Head of a Young Girl by Marie Laurencin 1909

Interestingly in 1983 a hundred years after she was born the Musee’ Marie Laurencin opened in Nagano, Japan to display more than 600 pieces of Marie Laurencin’s work collected by Masahiro Takano. The museum has since been relocated to Tokyo. 

ile-de-france-1940

Ile de France 1940 by Marie Laurencin

There are only a handful of women whose work is displayed in The French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I knew about three of them, Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot and Gabriele Münter, but thanks to my inquisitive tour participant on Saturday I will now be able to tell future visitors I guide about a fourth woman artist Marie Laurencin.

Note: An excellent article in the Women in World History Biographical Encyclopedia provided a great deal of information about Marie Laurencin. 

 

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