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First ever exhibition in France dedicated to the complete Caravaggesque movement opens
Visitors look at the painting "Sacrifice of Isaac" by Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi known as Caravaggio (1571-1610), at the Fabre museum in Montpellier, southern France, during the exhibition "Corps et Ombres, le Caravagisme européen" (Body and shadow, the European Caravagism". The event runs until October 14, 2012. AFP PHOTO / SYLVAIN THOMAS.

MONTPELLIER.- The Musée Fabre of Montpellier Agglomeration and the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse present an exceptional exhibition through FRAME (French Regional American Museum Exchange), the organisation for French-American cultural cooperation. The exhibition is dedicated to Caravaggio and his revolutionary influence on European painting.

This unprecedented museum experience brings together 150 masterpieces from the greatest 17th century artists (Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Manfredi, Honthorst, Seghers, Jordaens, Vélasquez, Zurbarán, Rembrandt, La Tour…) through the generous cooperation from prestigious international institutions (Musée du Louvre in Paris, National Gallery in London, Museo del Prado in Madrid, Fondazione Longhi and Galeria degli Uffizi in Florence, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York…).

Caravaggism in bodies and shadows
The revolutionary artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), did not have a workshop in the traditional sense of the term and neither did he seek to create a ‘school’. However, he deeply influenced a number of important painters from the south to the north of Europe. The dominant features of Caravaggism are the contrasts between light and dark, a corporeal sensuality, a psychological acuity in the play of glances and an astonishing sense of life emanating from the figures. These features yield a great contemporaneity in the work by the Lombard master’s admirers and disciples. The exhibition demonstrates the wealth of this great 17th century artistic movement and brings us up to date with research undertaken over the past 20 years.

An unprecedented collaboration
Toulouse and Montpellier, the two historic capitals of the Languedoc, a fertile land of Caravaggism, are close both in physical geographical terms and in the complementary nature of their collections. Whilst the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse holds marvellous examples of northern Caravaggism, the Musée Fabre of Montpellier Agglomération possesses stunning works by Italian, Spanish and French artists from the 17th century movement. These specialities determined the natural separation between the two venues for the same exhibition.

Montpellier, Caravaggio and the Southern Caravaggesques
The Musée Fabre of Montpellier Agglomération is honouring Southern Caravaggism with an exhibition featuring more than 70 works from the great masters. A special introductory gallery displays masterpieces by Caravaggio; amongst them the breathtaking Sacrifice of Isaac from the Uffizi in Florence, The Flagellation of Christ from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, Salome receives the head of Saint John the Baptist, on loan from the National Gallery in London and Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, rarely seen in France and in provenance from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. Paintings by Baglione, Saraceni, Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi reveal a direct influence by the Master while a section is specially dedicated to the painter's time in Rome between 1610 and 1630; the town where Manfredi and the French painters (Vouet, Valentin and Vignon) helped increase the popularity of Caravaggio’s preferred techniques. The following section focuses on painters who were not generally considered to be specifically Caravaggesque but were, during their career, tempted by Caravaggism. The renowned David by Guido Reni forms the centrepiece, accompanied by paintings by Spada, Guercino, Strozzi and Assereto. In Naples, and later in Spain, the mark of the Caravaggesque style was illustrated by work from first class artists: Caracciolo, Vélasquez, Zurbarán and Ribera. The exhibition concludes majestically with Georges de La Tour, the most illustrious of the ‘reality painters’. Visitors are able to enjoy several of his masterpieces: Magdalen with the Smoking Flame from Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Hurdy Gurdy Player from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, The New Born, an internationally renowned painting from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rennes and the well-known The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs from the Louvre.

Toulouse, the Northern Caravaggism
For the Musée des Augustins, the bringing together of masterpieces by the key masters of Northern Caravaggism is a major event – the movement as such has not hitherto been the subject of an exhibition in France. The exhibition gives pride of place to the Utrecht school, the most clearly influenced by Caravaggio’s heritage. The most inventive of its disciples, Ter Brugghen, is represented by his masterpiece The Calling of St. Matthew on loan from the Musée du Havre; Honthorst, with his particularly varied talent, features with his exceptional The Denial of St. Peter from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and Baburen stands out with Christ crowned with thorns from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. A monograph gallery dedicated to Matthias Storm pays justice to this little-known painter. Visitors discover several of his masterpieces including Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montréal. Nor are the Flemish Caravaggesques (Seghers, Cossiers…) forgotten. To conclude, the exhibition features the quintessential figure of Rembrandt and his Carravaggesque atmospheres, so beautifully shown in the Flight into Egypt from the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Tours.

A French-American event
This event has come to fruition at the heart of the FRAME network, a federation of 26 museums in France and North America which seeks to promote cultural collaboration through bilateral exchanges and encourages partnerships between its members. FRAME has enabled the bringing together of several artworks which are rarely loaned, in provenance from large member museums on both sides of the Atlantic: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Cleveland Museum of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Musées des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, Dijon, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Rennes, Rouen, Strasbourg and Tours.

The American museum public will be able to see a version of the exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) from 11 November 2012 until 10 February 2013, and then at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, from 8 March until 16 June 2013, both museums being members of FRAME and exhibition partners.

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