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9/23/2010 Houston, TX– Beginning February 20, 2011, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), will present a stunning loan exhibition of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The exhibition will present a selection of 50 paintings from the National Gallery of Art’s premier holdings while the galleries that house its 19th-century French collection are closed for repair, renovation, and restoration. The National Gallery’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection ranks among the finest of any museum in the world and features some of the greatest artists active in France between the 1860s and the early 20th century, including Cézanne, Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Van Gogh. A fully illustrated catalogue exploring these paintings in depth will accompany the show.

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art will be installed in the European galleries of the MFAH’s Rafael Moneo–designed Audrey Jones Beck Building. The show will run from February 20-May 22, 2011, and the exhibition’s closing will coincide with the opening of the annual American Association of Museums (AAM) conference, hosted by the city of Houston and its art museums May 22-26, 2011.

―While museums serve as repositories for the world’s art, the collections belong to everyone and serve to enlighten the public about our cultural heritages, commented Peter C. Marzio, director of the MFAH. ―This is our third initiative in a decade to bring some of the world’s greatest collections to the public of this region―beginning with the Museum of Modern Art in 2003 and continuing with The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007. With this extraordinary selection from the National Gallery of Art, we are once more offering the public in the Southwest and greater Western

Claude Monet. Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son (1875)
region the unique chance to see artistic treasures that complement the MFAH’s own splendid collection, right here in Houston.

―We are pleased to respond to the MFAH’s request to share these masterpieces with audiences in the Southwest during our renovations. The breadth of the National Gallery’s collection provides a compelling survey of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism—movements that changed the course of art history, stated Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The National Gallery of Art was established in 1937 by a joint resolution of Congress, accepting the gift of financier and art collector Andrew W. Mellon. During the 1920s, Mellon began collecting with the intention of forming a national gallery and in 1937, the year of his death, he promised his collection to the United States. Today, the museum houses some of the nation’s greatest art, and its Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings are among the most significant in the nation. The 50 works that will travel to Houston include a number of gifts from Mellon’s children, Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce.
Seventeen artists will be presented in Houston, with many represented by multiple works. Among the highlights:
Paul Cézanne (1839–1906): The work of this master bridges late 19th-century Impressionism and early 20th-century Cubism. The selection includes one of his earliest paintings, The Artist’s Father, Reading ‘L’Événement’ (1866), executed when the artist was just 27; Boy in a Red Waistcoat (1888–90), from his maturity; and work from his extraordinary late period, including Still Life with Apples and Peaches (c. 1905). These paintings were originally in the collection of Ambroise Vollard, the Parisian dealer and collector.

Edgar Degas (1834–1917): One of the founders of Impressionism, Degas vividly chronicled contemporary Paris, particularly the life of ballerinas onstage and off, in performance and in repose. Dancers Backstage (1876/1883) is one of three exquisite works by Degas in the exhibition.
Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890): The three works selected for the exhibition were painted in the South of France during the last years of the artist’s life. Farmhouse in Provence (1888) was completed during a productive 15-month period in Arles: he created more than 200 paintings and 100 drawings, and wrote 200 letters. His late self-portrait (1889) was painted after he committed himself to an asylum. A still life, Roses (1890), was produced toward the end of his yearlong stay at the asylum.

Édouard Manet (1832–1883): Five of Manet’s groundbreaking paintings will be on view in Houston; three are quintessential views of modern life with urban subject matter and compositions that break free of the picture’s frame. The Railway (1873) depicts a girl and a young woman by an iron railing as steam billows from a locomotive that has seemingly sped off beyond the canvas’s edge. Masked Ball at the Opera (1873) similarly shows a sophisticated urban scene—this one of flirtation at the opera house—and implies continuation beyond the painting’s frame. Plum Brandy (c. 1877) portrays a solitary young woman pensively drinking and smoking at a café.
Claude Monet (1840–1926): Several scenes of Monet’s family are included: The Cradle—Camille with the Artist’s Son Jean (1867) is an early work; The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil (1880) pictures Monet’s young son walking along the sun-dappled path of a terrace landscaped with colorful flowerpots; and Woman with a Parasol—Madame Monet and Her Son (1875) portrays Monet’s wife in a field of yellow flowers with an elegant umbrella shielding herself and her boy from the sun. A highlight will be his Japanese Footbridge (1899), one of the most harmonious versions of his beloved water lily ponds at Giverny.
Auguste Renoir (1841–1919): Renoir’s distinctive depictions of feminine beauty and scenes of leisure are among the six paintings selected: an elegant woman is portrayed in Madame Henriot (c. 1876); in Oarsmen at Chatou (1879) a pleasure boat is brought to shore; and Pont Neuf, Paris (1872) reveals a colorful Parisian scene.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901): One of the great painters of the Post-Impressionist period, the aristocrat Toulouse-Lautrec made the gritty nightlife in bohemian Montmartre and its Moulin Rouge his main focus. Carmen Gaudin (1885) portrays the artist’s favorite redheaded model.