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Seven hundred years of French painting on view at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford
Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906), House in the Country, 1879–82. Oil on canvas, 23 x 28 in. Anonymous gift, 2000.1.1
HARTFORD, CONN.- The Wadsworth Atheneum is showcasing its exceptional French paintings with an exhibition featuring over seventy-five works from the museum’s collection. On view from October 19, 2012 through January 27, 2013, Medieval to Monet: French Paintings in the Wadsworth Atheneum provides a survey of over 700 years of French painting—from miniatures of a medieval Apocalypse to twentieth-century Post-Impressionist works by Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, and Bonnard. Medieval to Monet tells the story of how the Wadsworth's extensive French painting collection has developed since the museum’s founding in 1842. Most recently, under the supervision of exhibition curator Eric M. Zafran, the museum has made a number of significant acquisitions of eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century works, including three recently-acquired paintings by Charles-Antoine Coypel, Jean François deTroy, and Henri Paul Motte.

The museum’s French paintings collection began in the late 19th century and was significantly increased by the brilliant acquisitions made by directors A. Everett Austin, Jr. and his successor Charles C. Cunningham from the late 1920s to the mid-1960s. Medieval to Monet marks the first time that so many highlights from the collection are displayed together in an exhibition at the museum, and is accompanied by a comprehensive catalog documenting over 130 French paintings in the Wadsworth’s collection. The exhibition and catalog also represent the culmination of the fifteen-year career of Eric M. Zafran, the Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art, who is retiring at the end of 2012.

“Ranging from Baroque masterpieces by Poussin and Claude to famous Impressionist works by Renoir and Monet, the paintings in Medieval to Monet offer a lens through which to view the historic changes in French culture between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries,” said Eric M. Zafran, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of European Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum. “Highlighting the Wadsworth’s extraordinary holdings of French paintings, this exhibition presents a unique opportunity to trace the development of one of the country’s great collections.”

“This tremendous exhibition is only possible because of the years of research and acquisitions undertaken by our esteemed Curator of European Art, Dr. Eric Zafran,” said Susan Talbott, Director and CEO of the Wadsworth Atheneum. “We are proud to honor his devoted service to the museum, and the significant impact he has had on the Wadsworth Atheneum over the last fifteen years.”

The earliest pieces in the exhibition are two cuttings from a medieval apocalypse manuscript that date from the late 13th century. A Pietà from the 15th century reflects the distinctive style of painting that developed in southern France in the 14th and 15th centuries. The seventeenth-century is represented by the works of Le Nain, Poussin, Claude, Vouet, Stella, and Le Sueur; the eighteenth-century by Boucher, Robert, Coypel, Chardin, de Troy, Greuze, Trinquesse and Vigée Lebrun. The nineteenth century, the most varied and rich portion of the collection, ranges from works by earlier masters like Ingres, Delacroix, Géricault, Corot and Courbet to academic and realistic works by Bouguereau, Vibert, Ribot, and Bonvin to Impressionist works by Manet, Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Cézanne, and Renoir. A companion exhibition, Medieval to Modern: French Drawings and Pastels, is also be on view in the Morgan galleries.

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