When visiting to museums in France and other parts over the world over the years, I’ve noticed that paintings are usually the main attraction. Museum-goers seem to prefer the often vibrant colors and textures of paintings over other more ‘austere’ forms of art such as drawings or prints. In addition, paintings typically are set off by beautiful frames, a phenomenon which directly or indirectly communicates “Look at me! I’m an important work of art.”
Gorgeously framed Impressionist works from the Musée d’Orsay and the accompanying crowds of visitors
Fortunately for museum-goers in the U.S., the Dallas Museum of Art is offering an exciting opportunity to contemplate fascinating drawings and other works on paper now through October 26, 2014. The DMA’s new exhibition entitled “Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cézanne” showcases a variety of works on paper including drawings, watercolors and pastels by famous and lesser-known European artists. Notable about this show is the special spotlight on the artistic process and creative imagination of the artists as well as the fact that many of the works on paper are shown in magnificent frames.
At the “Mind’s Eye” press preview in late June, DMA Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and former curator at the Louvre in Paris Olivier Meslay introduced the exhibition to the large group. He noted that the 120 works on view come from the DMA’s own collection and also significant loans from private collections in North Texas. The perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these privately-owned works adds a special dimension to show, he confirmed. (You may remember the Marmottan Museum in Paris had a great show this past spring on Impressionist paintings from private collections all over the world – it was a big sellout of course!)
Meslay also described the show’s departure from traditional methods of displaying works on paper. Typically, museums mount these types of works in very neutral, almost-disappearing thin frames. Here, the DMA has chosen to display the works on paper in lovely, often ornate frames, some of which come from the DMA’s own Reves Collection and some from the private collectors themselves. To my mind, the frames add a wonderful dimension to the enlightening presentation of the exhibition’s works.
Following his introduction, he and co-curator Bill Jordan, former director of the Meadows Museum and Deputy Director of the Kimbell Art Museum, led our group on a tour through the exhibition galleries. Arranged in roughly chronological order, the arresting drawings, sketches and watercolors focus on European art from the French Revolution in the late 18th century to the birth of modernism in the early 20th century. The works by Delacroix, David, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Schiele, Mondrian, Picasso, and other artists span almost 150 years of creativity. The show’s curators pointed out the many ways the artistic creations reveal the working methods of the artists. You can literally see and almost feel the energy and vitality of the artists’ minds seeking to express their visions on paper.
According to the exhibition’s curators and DMA Director Maxwell Anderson, a sub-theme of “Mind’s Eye” is the encouragement to collect art, i.e. that art collecting is not something reserved for a privileged few. “One of the goals of the Dallas Museum of Art is to encourage collecting within the community. There is no better example of how to do this than to highlight the Museum’s graphic holdings together with those that have been assembled in private homes throughout the area,” said Anderson. In essence, drawings are more available – and affordable – for those who have an interest in collecting art.
“Mind’s Eye” also includes ancillary displays such as how to care for and conserve works on paper as well as the various materials artists over the centuries have used to create paper-based works of art. In my opinion, seeing the actual samples of ink, pencil, charcoal, pastels, watercolors and other media is a wonderfully educational complement to the exhibition, particularly for those who have never taken a studio art class.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 240-page full-color catalogue, edited by Olivier Meslay and William B. Jordan, with contributions by Esther Bell, Richard R. Brettell, Alessandra Comini, Dakin Hart, William B. Jordan, Felix Krämer, Laurence Lhinares, Heather MacDonald, Olivier Meslay, Jed Morse, Steven Nash, Sylvie Patry, Louis-Antoine Prat, Richard Rand, George T. M. Shackelford, Richard Shiff, Kevin W. Tucker and Charles Wylie. The publication is distributed by Yale University Press.
To sum up, this exhibition is a must-see for art lovers of any stripe. And the preponderance of French artists makes it a must for Francophiles as well. A few thoughts for enjoying “Mind’s Eye” to the fullest: Allow enough time to really look closely at the drawings and absorb what the artists were trying to accomplish. Notice the ways the artists use the white of the paper to create forms and images. Take in the frames and how they set off these works on paper. Bring the kids – drawing and coloring are a time-honored childhood pastime. Finally, once you have nearly reached the show’s exit, turn around and go back through the galleries in the opposite direction from which you came (assuming gallery traffic allows). It’s amazing how many new things are visible by trying this technique. Bonne visite!
The Harvest, 1895, by Camille Pissarro. Pen, ink, and lead white gouache on paper. Dallas Museum of Art.
Still Life with Apples on a Sideboard, 1900–06, Paul Cézanne. Watercolor. Dallas Museum of Art.
Dallas Museum of Art
1717 North Harwood
Dallas, Texas 75201
Museum Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays 11am to 5pm, Thursdays until 9pm. Closed Mondays.
Special Exhibition Tickets: $8 per person. Click here for further DMA visitors’ information.
Photos of Olivier Meslay and the Pissaro / Cézanne images courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.
French Take-Out ~ La France à emporter
In addition to the “Mind’s Eye” exhibition in Dallas, there are a host of other French-related art shows on view across the country. Check out these various offerings happening from coast to coast:
San Antonio: Matisse: Life in Color. Also on view: The Art Books of Henri Matisse. San Antonio Museum of Art. Through September 7.
Houston: Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris. Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Through September 14.
Los Angeles: Rococo to Revolution: 18th-century French Drawings from Los Angeles Collections. J. Paul Getty Museum. Through September 21. Also in LA: Expressionism in France and Germany: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Through September 14.
Oklahoma City: Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Through September 14.
New York City: Miracles in Miniature: The Art of the Master of Claude de France. Morgan Library & Museum. Through September 14.
Washington, DC: Degas / Cassatt. National Gallery of Art. Through October 5.
Boston: Daguerre’s American Legacy: Photographic Portraits (1840-1900) . MIT Museum, Cambridge. Through January 4, 2015.
Coming This Fall:
Dallas: Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse. Dallas Museum of Art. From October 26, 2014 to February 8, 2015. Also on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA (March 22, 2015–June 21, 2015) and the Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO (July 19, 2015–October 11, 2015). Images courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.
Ft. Worth: Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay. Kimbell Art Museum. From October 19, 2014 to January 25, 2015.
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