A leading expert on 19th century painting will speak Monday as part of the University of Montana President’s Lecture Series, in conjunction with an art exhibit on display at the Montana Museum of Art and Culture.

Gloria Groom is the Mary and David Winton Green curator of 19th century European painting and sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the pre-eminent museums in the country and home to some of the great masterpieces of 19th and 20th century art.

Her lecture is titled “The School of Nature in French Art: From Realism to Impressionism.” It relates specifically to works currently on display in the exhibit “Labor and Leisure: Impressionist and Realist Masterpieces from a Private Collector” in the MMAC’s Meloy Gallery.

The connection between the exhibit, which opened Sept. 6 and closes Jan. 5, and Groom’s lecture is of some significance, said Barbara Koostra, MMAC director.

“These works are from a private collection,” Koostra said, “so the works are not publicly shown like this often.”

In fact, the opportunity to have the works collected in an exhibit is an important part of why Groom is speaking at UM.

The exhibit features a selection of works by well-known painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including impressionists Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as realists such as Edouard Bisson and Jules Breton. As curator of 19th century painting at the Art Institute of Chicago, Groom is very familiar with artists like Breton and William Adolphe Bouguereau, many of whose works have been shown at or are in the collection of the institute.

“They are wonderful paintings,” Groom said, which blend “a realist aesthetic with an impressionist technique.”

Her objective in the lecture is to deal with these works “in the context of naturalism and realism, discussing what these terms mean in art history.”

The impressionist movement emerged in Paris in the 1870s and played a significant role in much of the art that followed.

“These paintings were done relatively late in the 19th century, so they aren’t cutting-edge impressionism, but they feed off impressionism and they show knowledge of what had happened with this new kind of painting, which started to emerge in the 1870s,” Groom said.

The works in the exhibit – and others like them – were painted in Europe by Europeans, but came to art museums and collectors in America early on. Groom believes this is because of the way these artists approached the subject of nature in an increasingly industrial world. The artistic sensibility these artists created has always been of great appeal to Americans.

Groom will give a seminar on Monday at 3:10 p.m. in the Gallagher Business Building, Room 123, titled “Impressionism: Fashion and Modernity.”

Her evening lecture begins at 8 p.m. in the Montana Theatre of the Performing Arts and Radio Television Center.

Both events are free and open to the public.

A companion exhibit is now on display in the MMAC’s Paxson Gallery titled “Impressionism: Masterpieces on Paper,” and features works on the subject from the MMAC’s permanent collection, as well as a few items from private collectors.

The President’s Lecture Series has been bringing world-class scholars, artists and writers to Missoula since 1987. Organized by UM history professor Richard Drake, the series has presented lectures on a variety of subjects from speakers such as Seamus Heaney, Sydney Pollack, Wendell Berry and Walter LaFeber.

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