A Paris art exhibit renames paintings to put the focus on their black subjects 

With ‘The Black Model,’ the Musée d’Orsay makes a political statement.

 At the Louvre, the striking painting is identified simply as “Portrait of a black woman.”

The work is widely considered allegorical — the subject’s bare breast and classical dress, in the colors of the French flag, alluding to the French Republic and the figure of Liberty. The painting was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1800, so artist Marie-Guillemine Benoist could have been referring to the just-finished French Revolution or Napoleon Bonaparte’s moves to reinstate slavery — or both.

But the painting hangs under a new title in a groundbreaking show at the Musée d’Orsay directly across the Seine River: “Portrait of Madeleine.” For the first time since the early 19th century, Benoist’s sitter has her own story. As viewers learn, the woman gazing back at them was an emancipated slave from Guadeloupe and a domestic servant who worked in the home of the artist’s brother-in-law.

This is the project of “The Black Model: From Géricault to Matisse,” a major exhibit that opened at the Orsay on Tuesday. The show attempts to restore the identities and perspectives of black figures who were depicted on canvas but largely written out of history.

The exhibit expands on an earlier version that debuted at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery last fall, inspired by the research of American art historian Denise Murrell. But it lands with different impact in France, where the state is officially blind to race, both as statistical category and as lived experience.

“We are tacking political questions, social questions,” said Musée d’Orsay director Laurence des Cars. “We are tackling a very sensitive subject.” [ . . . ]

Continue at WASHINGTON POST: A Paris art exhibit renames paintings to put the focus on their black subjects – The Washington Post

Rodin’s paper cuttings exhibited for the first time, in Paris

Rodin would it be a precursor of the papers glued, announcing the modernity of Matisse? A new facet of the work of the master of sculpture is to be discovered at the Musée Rodin: one realizes that all his life he cut figures, variations of his drawings that he glued, assembled, with a great freedom (until 24 February 2019).

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is a bit like Picasso, his inventiveness seems limitless and we always discover new aspects of his work. Beyond his drawings, full-fledged works that are not preparatory studies for his sculptures, Rodin has always cut and pasted figures.

The Musée Rodin retains some 7,500 drawings. “I have a great weakness for these little sheets of paper,” said Rodin. 250 are presented in the exhibition, including a hundred or so cut papers. “I have exposed almost all the paper cut, all that we have, and there is almost no outside (of the museum),” says Sophie Biass-Fabiani, heritage curator in charge of drawings at the museum Rodin and Commissioner of the [ . . . ]

Source: Rodin’s paper cuttings exhibited for the first time, in Paris

Victor Hugo à gros traits

From September 13, 2018 to January 6, 2019, the Maison Victor Hugo presents an exhibition an exhibition around the public image of Victor Hugo through the style of caricature. The poet’s fame and political commitment made him a favorite subject of the caricaturists of his time who often sketched him rather roughly and sometimes even ferociously. Among these renowned designers, it will be possible to find prestigious signatures such as Daumier, Doré, Cham, Gill, Lepetit, Nadar  [ … ]

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Two by Two

A London exhibition of work by famous artistic couples reveals the tensions of partnership

The pioneering modernists of the first half of the 20th century are most often hailed for their individual genius. A new exhibition shifts this perception by focusing instead on artistic couples. “Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant Garde,” which opens at the Barbican Art Gallery in London on Oct. 10, examines the output of 40 such couples whose lives became indelibly linked through love and art. The exhibition features some of the leading artists of the 20th century, including sculptors Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel, painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and photographers Man Ray and Lee Miller.

The exhibition “is really making an argument that developments in modern art often resulted from a creative dialogue which was very often within the couple,” says Jane Alison, one of the show’s four curators. These developments included modernist movements such as Tactilism, a genre of mixed-media installations, which was developed by the Italian couple Benedetta Cappa and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti; and Rayism, a style of abstract art, created by the Russian couple Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov.

“We wanted to show that desire has a centrality within the avant-garde and modernity,” Ms. Alison says. “There is an undercurrent of sexuality infusing many of the art works which expresses this intimate access to the other.” The theme of sexual desire is starkly apparent in the work of artists like Claudel, who mined Indian literature for her terra-cotta studies of “Sakountala,” (1886) depicting a couple in a sinuous embrace. In his long-gestating installation “Étant donnés” (1946-1966), Marcel Duchamp made a cast of the body of his lover, the Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins, and the nude photographs Man Ray took of Miller pointed toward a new form of corporeal abstraction.

Robert Delaunay’s ‘Circular Forms: Sun No. 2’ (1912-13)
Robert Delaunay’s ‘Circular Forms: Sun No. 2’ (1912-13) PHOTO: CENTRE POMPIDOU, MNAM-CCI, DIST. RMN-GRAND PALAIS/JACQUES FAUJOUR

Altogether there are over 300 works of art on display in “Modern Couples,” by artists from Europe, Russia, the U.S. and South America. The exhibition also features numerous photographs and letters that attest to the artistic complicity many of these couples enjoyed. Alexander Lavrentiev, a lecturer in design and photography in Moscow who contributed a biographical essay in the exhibition catalog, recalls reading a letter that his grandfather, the influential Russian painter and graphic designer Alexander Rodchenko, wrote to his artist wife Varvara Stepanova during World War II. “My grandfather had returned to Moscow from the Urals, where my grandmother had to stay on,” says Mr. Lavrentiev. “He wrote that he couldn’t work because he found it difficult to live without her and that she was his engine.”

Mr. Lavrentiev likened his grandparents’ relationship to that of the French abstract painter couple Sonia and Robert Delaunay, whose experiments in “color rhythms” were in constant dialogue with one another. “There was a trend of equality which had begun,” he says. “My grandmother became a textile designer in the 1920s but only after fighting for her position in a print shop, which had always been a male-dominated field.”

Ms. Alison says that one of the aims of the exhibition is to “give due recognition to the women artists in the duos whose work has been unjustly marginalized.” She points to the example of the Hungarian photographer László Moholy-Nagy’s wife Lucia Moholy, who is largely unknown today. “She was the one who had trained to be a photographer, and it was in her darkroom that the couple experimented with the photograms which have shaped the way we view the Bauhaus today,” Ms. Alison says. These pictures produced with photosensitive materials, but without a camera, expanded the Bauhaus’s vision of photography as a way of imagining new worlds.

There are very few cases in the exhibition, however, where the female partner eventually outshines her male counterpart, as with Kahlo and Rivera. The Mexican couple, who painted each other for 25 years, were on an equal artistic footing for much of their lives, but Kahlo’s posthumous reputation has grown to be far greater. More typical are artistic couples where the woman saw her career almost entirely eclipsed by her partner. This was certainly the case with Claudel, whose sanity floundered when she tried to break away from the influence of her lover and mentor Rodin.

The same thing happened to Dora Maar, whose confidence Ms. Alison says was shaken when her lover Pablo Picasso persuaded her to abandon photography, where her real talent lay, and take up painting, with inauspicious results. One of Maar’s photographs in the exhibition, “Picasso en Minotaure,” captures her ambivalent feelings toward the Spanish artist’s machismo by shooting him in a pair of tight swimming trunks holding aloft a bull’s skull. “Modern Couples” makes clear that, for many women artists, being part of a creative pair involved obstacles men never had to face.

Dora Maar’s ‘Picasso en Minotaure, Mougins’ (1937)
Dora Maar’s ‘Picasso en Minotaure, Mougins’ (1937) PHOTO: CENTRE POMPIDOU, MNAM-CCI, DIST. RMN-GRAND PALAIS/PHILIPPE MIGEAT

Source WALL STREET JOURNAL: Two by Two – WSJ

Gauguin Review

The conceptual dullness of the new French biopic Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti hit me especially hard, since I was fired up to see those Tahitian pictures after a June trip to Paris and the Musee D’Orsay, where many of them reside. Have you been to a highly-touristed art museum lately? It used to be that if you wanted to get close to study the brush strokes it was a guard who’d ask you to step back. Now, it’s people who yell at you for blocking their iPhone photos. The museum’s Postimpressionist area would be a great place to get lost, but, like Paul Gauguin, it ends up making you want to flee civilization for shady pandanus glades halfway around the world — preferably without Gauguin’s raging syphilis.

The syphilis isn’t mentioned by name in Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti, although Gauguin has an unspecified cough that will obviously be fatal, because in biopics there is no such thing as an inconsequential cough. But as played by the febrile Vincent Cassel, this Gauguin seems too tightly wound for sex. The image of Gauguin the voluptuary eating and screwing and painting naked Tahitian women might be a cliché, but the director, Edouard Deluc, has gone to the other extreme. Although the script is based on Gauguin’s own writing, the film presents him as such a gloomy Gus that he might have swapped souls with his onetime pal Van Gogh.

The movie opens in France, where Gauguin is stricken that his oh-so-proper wife won’t come to Tahiti with the kids — though I imagine she’d have put a crimp in his lifestyle if she had. He does need her family money, since rich people are finding his latest works a mite unruly. He’s also dismayed that none of his fellow painters or acolytes will abandon Paris for distant French Colonial paradises. What Deluc gets right is that Gauguin, like most great artists but few in great-artist biopics, spends most of his time not carousing but sitting in front of canvases. What doesn’t come through is how entwined in Tahiti Gauguin’s various impulses were. The artist tells a doctor friend, “I paint and draw all day long and live in harmony with everything around me,” but you don’t see Buddhist oneness in Cassel’s face, especially as he ages into someone resembling Fagin. Non-transcendental, too, are composer Warren Ellis’s somber cellos and violins [. . . ]

Continue at THE VULTURE: Gauguin Review