Emile Bernard, “Madeleine au Bois d’Amour”, 1888, Paris, Musée d’Orsay
With ‘The Black Model,’ the Musée d’Orsay makes a political statement.
PARIS — 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
Originally a railroad station built in 1810, The Musée d’Orsay was our destination for a Cezanne exhibit. The giant clock on the top floor restaurant is a work of art as well.
And what time does the clock say? Beaudelaire:
Always be drunk.
The great imperative!
In order not to feel
Time’s horrid fardel
bruise your shoulders,
grinding you into the earth,
Get drunk and stay that way.
On wine, poetry, virtue, whatever.
But get drunk.
And if you sometimes happen to wake up
on the porches of a palace,
in the green grass of a ditch,
in the dismal loneliness of your own room,
your drunkenness gone or disappearing,
ask the wind,
ask everything that flees,
everything that groans
everything that speaks,
ask what time it is;
and the wind,
will answer you:
“Time to get drunk!
Don’t be martyred slaves of Time,
On wine, virtue, poetry, whatever!”