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Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay on view at the National Museum of Singapore
Jean Naudin, Project Manager at the Musee d'Orsay (C) and Caroline Mathieu, Exhibition Curator (L) inspect a Carolus Duran painting entitled 'La dame au gant' after it was unpacked at the National Museum of Singapore in Singapore. Over 140 impressionists paintings, drawings and photographs from the renowned Musee d'Orsay in Paris that will be on show at the National Museum of Singapore from through 05 February 2012. EPA/STEPHEN MORRISON.

SINGAPORE.- Instead of travelling 12 long hours to Paris to appreciate the world’s finest collection of modern art, Singaporeans can now view over 140 Salon, Realist, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works from the greatest painters in the likes of Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas and many more at the National Museum of Singapore.

Titled Dreams & Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing & Photography of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, the exhibition will enthrall visitors from 26 October 2011 to 5 February 2012, following a similar show at the Seoul Arts Centre in Korea. This rare opportunity for the art works to travel out of the Musée d’Orsay is possible only because the museum is undergoing renovation works of its galleries.

Ms Lee Chor Lin, director of the National Museum of Singapore says, “Bringing these important works to Singapore involved working very closely with our French partners in the areas of curation and logistics. This exhibition is the fruition of the Memorandum of Understanding on Museum Cooperation between France and Singapore. Through this partnership with the Musée d’Orsay, we hope to enhance the cultural ties and the museum professionals between our two countries.”

At the turn of the century from 1848 to 1914, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, a rapidly urbanising social and economic landscape in Europe compelled Man to react towards modernity. The arts particularly grew in prominence as artists were confronted by a whole new world of ideas, possibilities and influences. Some chose to pursue their desire to capture contemporary subjects; others who were anguished and disorientated by the onslaught of massive change, sought refuge in their dreams and imagination founded on mythologies, legends and ancient civilisations. Their varied response generated new ways of depicting reality and a proliferation of artistic styles, redefining their own identities amidst the radical transformations taking place around them.

This exhibition is divided into four main sections: Allegory and History, Man and Contemporary Life, Man and Nature and Solitude.

Allegory and History

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres blended myths of classical antiquity with history and reality, creating a new trend that was perpetuated in the Salons during the second half of the 19th century. Gods and goddesses were increasingly depicted as stylised figures, stripped of meaning.

Literature and Music
During the Romantic period in the 19th century, the links between literature, theatre, music and painting grew. Artists sought to free themselves of classicism; yearning freedom, they embraced a dark melancholy and rebellious pessimism.

History and War
After France surrendered and lost two provinces – Alsace and a large part of Lorraine to Prussia in the 1870 War, many artists were affected by the tragic events and dedicated paintings and drawings to the defence of Paris and the Commune – a resistance movement against the Empire’s defeat.

Man and Contemporary Life

Family was the only constant source of stability, comfort and moral support for the artists. Family members thus became tractable models with whom the artists could share their difficulties in artistic creation.

When the once agrarian society transited into an urban one, some artists felt nostalgic towards the countryside as a sort of “lost paradise”, while others denounced the archaic conditions and exploitation of peasants. Another group of artists looked at a different reality – contemporary life in the city and the exalted heroism of factory workers.

As Paris modernised, an array of new leisure activities sprung up. Artists began to discover the beauty of modern life by painting new places like theatres, public gardens and railways.

Man and Nature
The Human Figure

From the mid-19th century, traditional approaches to figure-painting, portraits and nudes were widely challenged and succeeded by new artistic styles which included informal poses, people donning their own clothes performing daily tasks in their homes or on the streets.

While landscape in art was initially linked to history, mythology and the Bible, it moved towards a more subjective and lyrical interpretation from the second half of the 18th century onwards. Towards the end of the 19th century, landscapes became increasingly devoid of human presence, underlining the insignificance of man as a subject compared to the forces of Nature.

Man as a solitary being
Surrounded by progress on all fronts, a group of artists were concerned about the irreversible changes made to the fast urbanising environment, hence, they set out to depict Man as a solitary being. In the artists’ perspective, the only way humans can escape the weight of science and technology is through the individual’s mind.

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November 1, 2011

Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay on view at the National Museum of Singapore

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