Montana residents and visitors will have an unprecedented opportunity to view selected works by some of the most notable artists from the late 18th to the early 20th century at an exhibition opening Friday, Nov. 12, at the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at the University of Montana.
The exhibition, "Renoir, Magritte, Gauguin and other Masterpieces from a Private Collection," is largely centered on portraiture and includes works by Alexander Archipenko, Rosa Bonheur, William Bouguereau, Max Ernst, Paul Gauguin, René Magritte, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, George Romney, Théophile van Rysselberghe and John William Waterhouse.
An opening reception will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 12 at MMAC, which is located in UM's Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center. The exhibition will be on view at the museum through March 12, 2011.
Featured will be three portraits by Renoir: "Portrait de Nini" (1874); "Mademoiselle Grimprel au ruban rouge (Hélène Grimprel)" (1880); and "Portrait de Wilhelm Mühlfeld" (1910). The portraits provide compelling evidence of the evolution of the artist's approach to his subjects over the course of his life.
Romney's romantic portrait of Emma Hart, a painting that was listed in a 1787 inventory of the artist's studio, also will be part of the exhibition. Considered one of the most beguiling beauties of England in the mid-1700s, Hart was renowned for her talent of imitating classical poses drawn from antiquity, such as those found on Greek vases. In this portrait, she appears demurely as "Absence."
Bonheur, perhaps the most famous woman artist of the 19th century, was a friend to Francisco Goya and known for her depictions of animals. Because the Paris-based Academie de Beaux-Arts did not admit women to their classes, Bonheur, disguised as a man, frequented slaughterhouses, fairs and horse shows for models. The exhibition includes "Monarchs of the Forest," a double-portrait of Bonheur's favorite pet stag.
Additional paintings by Gauguin and Van Rysselberghe document the transition away from the Impressionist painting style to what became known as Post Impressionism and Pointillism - both of which are characterized by an expressive use of color and emphasis on emotion instead of shifting natural light.
"This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to share with our audiences this quality of art," said Barbara Koostra, executive director of the MMAC, who said the works were offered by a private collector for exhibition exclusively at the University of Montana, after which they will be returned to the private collection.
"We don't believe Montanans have ever had an opportunity like this to see artists of this level of historical importance," said Koostra. "There are wonderful exhibits across our state constantly, but we're not aware of anything this monumental."
"It's almost a crash course in art history, showing who some of the biggest players have been," added Brandon Reintjes, curator of art at the MMAC. "We're incredibly proud to bring it to Montana."
Because the paintings have been so rarely available for public viewing, Reintjes said he anticipates art historians and aficionados will come from near and far to view the exhibition, which will run through March 12.
"With the exception of, I think, the Renoir and Waterhouse, these works have not been known publicly very much because they've been in private collections for such a long time," said Reintjes. "In the case of the Renoir and the Waterhouse and also the Rysselberghe, those enjoyed an early fame when they were painted - the Rysselberghe piece was immensely popular and acclaimed in magazines and newspapers when it first came out. That kind of early acclaim helped provide patronage for the artists, but then these works went into these private collections. Now they're emerging from private collections, but only briefly; so I think there will be a lot of interest from people to see them."
In conjunction with the exhibition, Reintjes will present an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course titled "Questions of Connoisseurship" at UM. The course will begin Jan. 17. Reintjes also will present a lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in the Masquer Theatre of the PAR/TV Center.
UM art history professor Valerie Hedquist will give a lecture in conjunction with the exhibition at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10, in the Montana Theatre of the PAR/TV Center.
Concurrent with the masterpiece exhibition will be "Three Centuries of European Prints," a display of works on paper drawn from the same period. The works are from MMAC's Permanent Collection and have never before been exhibited. They will be on view in the museum's Paxson Gallery. The Permanent Collection, which has existed since 1894, contains more than 10,000 artworks.
MMAC will provide expanded hours throughout the course of the exhibitions. Gallery hours will be from noon to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday.