From October 2, 2010 to 30 January, 2011 the Museum Folkwang
, Essen, Germany, is showing, with Images of a Capital The Impressionists in Paris, a unique exhibition with numerous spectacular loans, dedicated to the first modern metropolis in Europe.
The exhibition shows about 80 paintings altogether by the most famous impressionists such as Manet and Pissarro, Monet and Renoir, and important contemporaries such as Caillebotte, Luce and Goeneutte. Among the masterpieces are Renoirs Ball at the Moulin de la Galette, 1876, from the Musée dOrsay, Manets The Railway, 1873 from the National Gallery Washington and Caillebottes Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877, from the Art Institute of Chicago. At the same time, the exhibition concentrates on a decisive moment in street photography with about 125 photographs, including masterpieces by Gustave Le Gray, Edouard Baldus, Charles Marville, Henri Rivière and Eugène Atget.
The exhibition in the new building by David Chipperfield Architects presents the metropolis of Paris in a number of chapters. It begins with a panoramic view from Montmartre, shows streets and boulevards, squares and monuments, parks and cafés, views from ateliers and apartments. It lets the visitors stroll along the quays, explore the new neighbourhoods and the suburbs to then return to the pulsating big city life to frequent cabarets and restaurants, theatres, circuses and operas by night.
Françoise Cachin, Curator of the exhibition: When Paris started to undergo rapid transformation around 1860, painters began with unprecedented intensity to make the city the subject of their pictures. They developed new, surprising forms of depiction that gave expression to life in the city. There was no other city where artistic and urban developments were interlinked so closely and in such an exemplary manner. The comparison of painting and photography gives us an incredibly vivid impression of the capital in the 19th century, and I am delighted that we can present it in this exhibition at Museum Folkwang as part of the European Capital of Culture.
Paris between 1860 and 1900: rarely has a capital undergone so rapid and profound a transformation. It is difficult today to measure the effect on the city of the massive public works undertaken during the Second Empire under Napoleon III and his prefect Georges-Eugène Haussmann and during the Third Republic: boulevards, large squares, train stations, theatres, the opera, parks and squares appeared in record time: new subjects for landscapes, urban this time, for modern artists.
Opened in 1868, the spectacular Pont de lEurope arching over the tracks of the Saint-Lazare train station provides an exemplary illustration of that revolution. Around the station and the bridge, a new quarter arose with wide streets and long rows of houses. Close by, new boulevards were laid down to link the suburbs with the city centre, with standardized urban planning: homogeneous facades, wide sidewalks bordered by rows of trees, Morris columns, gaslights, shops, department stores, cafés etc. The majority of the artists presented in this exhibition lived, in fact, in this new quarter at one time or another: Manet, Monet, Caillebotte or Goeneutte, or around the Boulevard de Clichy, such as Seurat or Signac, or in neighbouring Montmartre, such as Renoir or Van Gogh.
The Impressionists and their contemporaries immortalized the new city in their paintings, exploring the near and the far, the familiar and the strange, movement and amusement. Views from above over the crowd, traffic along the lively boulevards or deserted squares, a fleeting moment on the street, in a café or in the parks, are some of the images of modern Paris that inspired the Impressionists and the artists of their day.
The new capital also rapidly became a prime subject for photography, invented in the first half of the 19th century. In comparison with paintings, however, its range of subjects is even wider. While industrialization remained marginal in the Impressionists paintings, new suburban industrial sites attracted the photographers attention. In the exhibition, photographs will be juxtaposed with paintings not to provide documentary testimony, but instead to allow a more profound perception of the city, and to illustrate the specificities of painting and photography. The selection of photographs concentrates on ten important moments in the history of urban photography with major works by masters such as Gustave Le Gray, Edouard Baldus, Charles Marville, Louis-Emile Durandelle, Henri Rivière and Eugène Atget.
The exhibition presents the capital of modernism in a number of chapters. It begins with a panoramic view from Montmartre, shows streets and boulevards, squares and monuments, parks and cafés, views from ateliers and apartments. It lets the visitors stroll along the quays, glance through train stations and explore the suburbs to then return to the pulsating big city life to frequent cabarets and restaurants, theatres, circuses and operas by night.
Images of a Capital The Impressionists in Paris is curated by Françoise Cachin, founding director of the Musée dOrsay from 1986 to 1994, and from 1994 to 2001 director of the Musées de France. Responsible for the photography section are Françoise Reynaud, curator for photography at the Musée Carnavalet, Paris, and Virginie Chardin, freelance curator.