Alfred Sisley, Meadow, 1875. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection.
SAN ANTONIO.- San Antonio’s international flavor takes on a distinctly French accent this fall when the McNay Art Museum hosts Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art, an extensive exhibition of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings on its first-ever worldwide tour. The exhibition, on view at the McNay September 3, 2014 – January 4, 2015, is comprised of nearly 70 paintings, including work by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh.
The collection features a selection of intimately scaled still lifes, portraits, and landscapes that are among the most beloved paintings at the National Gallery of Art. The exhibition is visiting Rome, Tokyo, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Antonio, making the McNay the only opportunity to see the collection in the United States outside of the West Coast.
The collection has never toured before and once a current renovation of the collection’s home at the National Gallery of Art is complete, these masterworks will return to their traditional home in Washington, making Intimate Impressionism a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy in San Antonio. The exhibition is part of a year-long celebration of the McNay’s 60th anniversary and is the icing on the museum’s birthday cake.
“The opportunity to share an exhibition of this prominence, and one that is so closely linked to our permanent collection, is a wonderful way to celebrate 60 years of sharing great works of art with San Antonio,” explains William J. Chiego, Director of the McNay Art Museum. “Many of the artists featured in Intimate Impressionism are also featured in the McNay’s permanent collection, giving visitors a unique opportunity to see under one roof superb paintings by true masters.”
Most of the works in Intimate Impressionism came to the National Gallery of Art from the personal collections formed by Ailsa Mellon Bruce and her brother Paul Mellon, children of the museum’s founder, Andrew Mellon. The efforts of Paul and his wife, Rachel Lambert Mellon, on behalf of the Gallery’s collection cemented the institution’s role as one of the world’s leading repositories of French modernist painting.
The McNay is an ideal venue for presenting Intimate Impressionism: Like the Mellons, Marion Koogler McNay assembled an art collection for her home, acquiring intimately scaled paintings for domestic spaces, building a private collection ultimately destined for public enjoyment. The significance of this exhibition is grounded in the high quality of each example and in the variety of subject matter. Their intimate effect also extends to the paintings’ themes—many are studies of the artists’ favorite places and depictions of people familiar to them, and the works often became gifts shared among friends.
“For many visitors to the National Gallery of Art, the discovery of the intimately scaled impressionist and post-impressionist works that comprise the Intimate Impressionism collection is a particular delight,” explains Mary Morton, Curator and Head of the Department of French Paintings at the National Gallery of Art. “These are pleasure paintings—works made for private enjoyment, at home, every day. The works in the collection were bought by and lived with the collectors in their homes, but they always intended to give the collection to the nation. The Mellons wished to share their treasures with the people of the United States and it gives us great pleasure to see them travel to allow even more people to enjoy the collection.”
The exhibition offers familiar names—Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, Manet—but on a smaller scale. The largest paintings are about 24 by 29 inches in size; while many are smaller. One, by Georges Seurat, is a small study for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, his massive pointillist painting.
“Mrs. McNay’s preference, like that of many American collectors of the time -including Ailsa Mellon Bruce- was for French painting. Both women appear to have shared a love of painterly, spontaneous works that clearly show the artist’s hand. Their taste for freely executed, small-scale pictures was serendipitous and the parallels between the collections will allow McNay visitors to compare and contrast intimate works by Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Bonnard, and van Gogh, as well as Boudin, Sisley, Manet, Vollon, and Vuillard,” explains Chiego.
Running concurrently with Intimate Impressionism from September 3, 2014, to January 4, 2015, the McNay is featuring Manet to Gauguin: French Masterworks on Paper. Extending visitors’ opportunity to enjoy works of art from the impressionist period, this exhibition features approximately 30 works and focuses on one of the great strengths of the McNay’s graphics collection: 19th-century French prints and drawings.
Edouard Vuillard, The Artist’s Paint Box and Moss Roses, 1898. Oil on cardboard. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection.
Paul Cézanne, Still Life with Milk Jug and Fruit, ca. 1900. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Gift of the W. Averell Harriman Foundation in memory of Marie N. Harriman.
Vincent van Gogh, Flower Beds in Holland, ca. 1883. Oil on canvas on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon.
Edgar Degas, The Races, 1871-1872. Oil on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Widener Collection.
Edouard Manet, At the Races, ca. 1875. Oil on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Widener Collection.
Auguste Renoir, The Mussel Harvest (The Vintagers), 1879. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Gift of Margaret Seligman Lewisohn in memory of her husband, Sam A. Lewisohn.
Claude Monet, Argenteuil, ca. 1872. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection.
Camille Pissarro, Orchard in Bloom, Louveciennes, 1872. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection.
Georges Seurat, Study for La Grande Jatte, 1891. National Gallery of Art Washington DC.