Following a two-year renovation, the galleries devoted to impressionism and post-impressionism in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art
will reopen to the public on January 29, 2012. Among the greatest collections in the world of paintings by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, the Gallery's later 19th-century French paintings will return to public view in a freshly conceived installation design.
"The Gallery's French impressionist and post-impressionist holdings, comprising nearly 400 paintings, are among the most prized in the Gallery, and rightly so," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "A world-class collection of this caliber results from the generosity of many donors, from the 1942 Widener bequest that brought the Gallery its first impressionist paintings to other treasured works of art, received primarily through gifts large and small."
The installation is organized into thematic, monographic, and art historical themes, including the "new" Paris of the Second Empire and the Third Republic; "high impressionism" of the 1870s marked by sun-dappled landscapes and scenes of suburban leisure; the fantastic, sophisticated color experiments of late Monet; Cézanne's genius in landscape, still-life, and figure painting; the bold innovations of Van Gogh and Gauguin; and the Parisian avant-garde circa 1900: Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Modigliani, and Rousseau. Text panels in many of the galleries will suggest the ideas behind these groupings, and new audio-tour stops will further help orient the visitor.
Opened in 1941, the National Gallery of Art is significantly younger than its competitors in this collecting area (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Musée d'Orsay, Paris). The Gallery boasts major masterpieces from the Chester Dale Collection, which in accordance with the deed of gift in 1962 may never be loaned. These include Manet's Old Musician, Cézanne's The Peppermint Bottle, Gauguin's Self-Portrait, Van Gogh's La Mousmé, Degas's Four Dancers, two of Monet's celebrated views of Rouen Cathedral, and Picasso's Family of Saltimbanques. They join other great works of French art, given to the Gallery by the Mellon family and other donors, including Manet's The Railway and Plum Brandy, Renoir's Dancer, Cézanne's Boy in a Red Waistcoat and Harlequin, and Van Gogh's Self-Portrait and Roses.
Thirteen works have been newly restored, including Renoir's sparkling Parisian view of the Pont Neuf, his ever-popular Girl with a Watering Can, Monet's classic Bridge at Argenteuil, and a portrait of Monet's newborn son Jean in his cradle.
During the two-year period of repair, restoration, and renovation, works normally on view in these galleries were either in storage, on loan, or featured in a special installationFrom Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collectionin the West Building Ground Floor galleries. Some fifty of the greatest works from this collection were included in major exhibitions shown in Houston, Tokyo, and Kyoto.