Sight to See

April 1, 2007 by  
Filed under Edit

Visiting the only U.S. venue for rarely seen French masterpieces

As many people do, we Houstonians sometimes take our city for granted. When your backyard has as much as ours — the world’s largest medical center, world-recognized art centers, and countless restaurants that are virtual playgrounds for your palate — it’s not surprising that we often forget the draw Houston has for visitors from all over the globe.

We are reminded again of our city’s offerings with the exhibition, The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1800-1920, being hosted at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston brings in phenomenal exhibits year-round, and it will now house the collection of masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The catch? It will only be at the MFAH until May 6, when it leaves for Berlin.

“Never before in the history of The Met have we agreed to lend so many of our treasures, some of which are leaving the building for the first — and most certainly the last — time,” Philippe de Montebello, director of The Met, says. All of France’s great artists from the 19th and early 20th centuries are represented, including Cézanne, Degas, Van Gogh, Ingres, Manet, Matisse, Monet, Picasso and Renoir. The exhibition is comprised of 132 paintings from The Met’s French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection (acknowledged as the finest outside of Europe) that span each “-ism” forming 19th century French art.

If you’re feeling skeptical about reading “-ism,” not to fear. All types of visitors with various levels of knowledge and interest are sure to find the exhibit both fun and enriching. As MFAH Director Peter C. Marzio says, “[The exhibit] is a virtual who’s who of 19th and early 20th century French art. The exhibition will be a spectacular opportunity for the public of this region to enjoy this unrivaled collection of French paintings. The key phrase here is high quality. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

Experienced the exhibit already? Take someone who hasn’t and catch paintings or details you may have missed the first time around. For example, in “Dancers, Pink and Green” Degas mixed his colors with white to make them opaque and applied them in layers with brushes and his fingers. Standing inches away from the canvas, you can actually see the heaviness of the layers, the texture they create and the actual whispers of Degas’ fingerprints in the paint. Sure, we’ve all seen many of these pieces before — in textbooks and among the selection of prints at the local Bed, Bath &Beyond — but, like so many things in life, there’s simply no match for seeing the real thing.

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