Saturday, May 22, 2010

Impressionism Exhibit Opens at de Young

The Impressionism exhibition that opened at San Francisco's de Young Museum this weekend has all the makings of a blockbuster event: nearly 100 paintings from the Musee d'Orsay's permanent collection that will never be loaned out for an exhibition as a group again, according to the French government.
Through Sept. 6, the first of two exhibitions is on view: Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musee d'Orsay.
Eleven galleries are filled with art by Bouguereau, Manet, Renoir, Sisley, Caillebotte, Monet, Pissaro, Cezanne and Degas.
On a media tour on Wednesday, it was clear that this is the kind of exhibit you want to linger over and return to again if possible. The paintings are indeed masterpieces, the ones that people travel to Paris to view -- or only see in an art history book.
The works include The Fifer and Woman with Fans by Manet, The Magpie by Monet and The Floor Scrapers by Caillebotte. A famous American work is in the mix: Whistler's Mother by Whistler.
The exhibition breaks down the evolution of Impressionism in engaging and understandable pieces for a layperson.
It traces the origins of Impressionism and how it grew in the late 19th century when the political and social turmoil in France was reflected in the art produced by the greatest painters of the time.
Some art lovers may look at this exhibit, however, as a warm-up act: the de Young's second Musee d'Orsay exhibit this fall will be devoted to Post-Impressionism, with the works of Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cezanne.
The two back-to-back exhibitions are the only such exhibitions anywhere in the world. How did San Francisco get so lucky? The city was in the fortunate position to take advantage of the closure of the Musee d'Orsay as it undergoes a major renovation for its 25th anniversary in 2011. Besides a sister-city partnership between San Francisco and Paris, there is a close relationship between board members and the directors of the two museums that led to the mounting of the two exhibitions.
The de Young has instituted the timed-viewing arrangement that works well for these types of blockbuster exhibits. But there's also something new.
In addition to the regular hours and Friday Nights at the de Young series, the museum scheduled extended viewing hours -- until 8:45 p.m. (last ticket: 7:30 p.m.) -- on Thursday evenings from June 17 until Sept. 2. Called "Impressionism at Twilight," the Thursdays offer reduced admission and a special fixed price menu at the de Young Cafe. Also, the tower, usually closed in the evenings, will be open so that visitors will be able to watch the sunset from high above the museum.

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