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Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art unfolds at the McNay Art Museum
Edouard Vuillard, The Yellow Curtain, ca. 1893. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection.

SAN ANTONIO, TX.- San Antonio’s international flavor takes on a distinctly French accent this fall when the McNay Art Museum hosts Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art, an extensive exhibition of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings on its first-ever worldwide tour. The exhibition, on view at the McNay September 3, 2014 – January 4, 2015, is comprised of nearly 70 paintings, including work by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh.

The collection features a selection of intimately scaled still lifes, portraits, and landscapes that are among the most beloved paintings at the National Gallery of Art. The exhibition is visiting Rome, Tokyo, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Antonio, making the McNay the only opportunity to see the collection in the United States outside of the West Coast.

The collection has never toured before and once a current renovation of the collection’s home at the National Gallery of Art is complete, these masterworks will return to their traditional home in Washington, making Intimate Impressionism a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy in San Antonio. The exhibition is part of a year-long celebration of the McNay’s 60th anniversary and is the icing on the museum’s birthday cake. “The opportunity to share an exhibition of this prominence, and one that is so closely linked to our permanent collection, is a wonderful way to celebrate 60 years of sharing great works of art with San Antonio,” explains William J. Chiego, Director of the McNay Art Museum. “Many of the artists featured in Intimate Impressionism are also featured in the McNay’s permanent collection, giving visitors a unique opportunity to see under one roof superb paintings by true masters.”

Welcoming Them Into Their Home: Private Collections Shared With the World
Most of the works in Intimate Impressionism came to the National Gallery of Art from the personal collections formed by Ailsa Mellon Bruce and her brother Paul Mellon, children of the museum’s founder, Andrew Mellon. The efforts of Paul and his wife, Rachel Lambert Mellon, on behalf of the Gallery’s collection cemented the institution’s role as one of the world’s leading repositories of French modernist painting.

The McNay is an ideal venue for presenting Intimate Impressionism: Like the Mellons, Marion Koogler McNay assembled an art collection for her home, acquiring intimately scaled paintings for domestic spaces, building a private collection ultimately destined for public enjoyment. The significance of this exhibition is grounded in the high quality of each example and in the variety of subject matter. Their intimate effect also extends to the paintings’ themes—many are studies of the artists’ favorite places and depictions of people familiar to them, and the works often became gifts shared among friends.

“For many visitors to the National Gallery of Art, the discovery of the intimately scaled impressionist and post-impressionist works that comprise the Intimate Impressionism collection is a particular delight,” explains Mary Morton, Curator and Head of the Department of French Paintings at the National Gallery of Art. “These are pleasure paintings—works made for private enjoyment, at home, every day. The works in the collection were bought by and lived with the collectors in their homes, but they always intended to give the collection to the nation. The Mellons wished to share their treasures with the people of the United States and it gives us great pleasure to see them travel to allow even more people to enjoy the collection.”

The exhibition offers familiar names—Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, Manet—but on a smaller scale. The largest paintings are about 24 by 29 inches in size; while many are smaller. One, by Georges Seurat, is a small study for A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, his massive pointillist painting.

“Mrs. McNay’s preference, like that of many American collectors of the time—including Ailsa Mellon Bruce— was for French painting. Both women appear to have shared a love of painterly, spontaneous works that clearly show the artist’s hand. Their taste for freely executed, small-scale pictures was serendipitous and the parallels between the collections will allow McNay visitors to compare and contrast intimate works by Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Bonnard, and van Gogh, as well as Boudin, Sisley, Manet, Vollon, and Vuillard,” explains Chiego.

Just Say “Oui!” To complement the collection’s visit to San Antonio, the McNay will present a wide array of public programs for all ages throughout the exhibition, providing many points of access for understanding and enjoying both the museum’s permanent collections and Intimate Impressionism and the relationship between them. Intimate Impressionism at the McNay features a schedule of fun, creative, and unique events that all relate to the exhibition, including films, concerts, special lectures, workshops, and family activities that appeal to anyone who loves art as well as those who simply enjoy having fun surrounded by beauty. The exhibition itself also includes a special family activity area to entertain and delight children, allowing families to engage with and enjoy the exhibition from a different perspective.

OUI! Wednesdays, a first of its kind series to be held on Wednesdays throughout the run of Intimate Impressionism, was crafted to allow McNay visitors to fall in love with French countryside, culture, and cuisine during this weekly accompaniment to Intimate Impressionism. The programs include Passport to Paris, a fun guide to French phrases, must-see artist haunts, and tips on planning your real, or dream, journey to the city of lights, as well as Bon Appétit featuring favorite French flavors to delight your palate as you reflect on the palettes of these master artists, and Long-Distance Relationship, talks on the similarities between the collections of Marion Koogler McNay and Ailsa Mellon Bruce. And for those who can’t tell impressionism from expressionism, the -ISMs Series will help guide you through how to decipher the characteristics of various artistic movements. All programs begin at 2:00 p.m. and are free with museum admission unless otherwise noted.

Wednesdays are definitely a day to make yourself at home at the McNay: in addition to the fun programs of OUI! Wednesdays, the museum is offering lunch and docent-led tours of Intimate Impressionism for groups of 10 or more. Tour de Art Wednesdays allow groups to reserve a tour that includes a box lunch and beverages to feed your body while feasting on the beauty of Intimate Impressionism. Staff-led tours are also available and the timing of the tours allows you to also enjoy the OUI! Wednesday programs while you’re at the museum.

Running concurrently with Intimate Impressionism from September 3, 2014, to January 4, 2015, the McNay is featuring Manet to Gauguin: French Masterworks on Paper. Extending visitors’ opportunity to enjoy works of art from the impressionist period, this exhibition features approximately 30 works and focuses on one of the great strengths of the McNay’s graphics collection: 19th-century French prints and drawings. The exhibition includes works by artists Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Gauguin and is included in the museum’s admission price.

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