June 5 to September 6, 2010 – Vancouver Art Gallery

The first drawing exhibition ever to travel from the Musée d’Orsay brings works from the world’s finest collection of 19th-century French art to Vancouver. Presented are nearly 100 works by celebrated French artists such as Daumier, Degas, Gauguin, Manet, Pissaro, Renoir, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, Vuillard and others.

Beginning around 1850, the artists represented in this exhibition turned away from the formal portraits, landscapes and historical subjects that had dominated French art for centuries and instead looked to scenes of everyday life as inspiration. Their drawings range from casual portraits and images of domestic interiors to cityscapes celebrating the dynamic new urban landscape of Paris. Poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire noted that the artists at this moment in France had uniquely captured a sense of the “modern” in their work. The exhibition explores the ways in which, in subject matter and technique, this art was considered to be innovative through a focus on one of the most popular subjects: depictions of women.

Reflecting the changing social roles in society, artists began to portray women with an increasing level of individuality and independence. Pictured in the café or in the street, in the boudoir and the bath, lounging or reading, and often unaccompanied by men, these depictions of often anonymous women departed radically from the traditional portrait genre and historical conventions that had relegated women in art to images of virgins, saints or idealized allegorical figures. These works, with the subjects’ direct gaze and contemporary dress, announce a very different approach. Art history had rarely seen such representations of independent, confident women.

These extraordinary drawings–many of which have never been presented outside of Paris–provide an overview of late 19th century art, depicting the full range of one of art history’s most brilliant periods of draftsmanship and a connection to the intimate creative impulse of some of the prominent artists of the era. The drawings speak to the heart of Baudelaire’s evocation of the modern, as well as to the fascinating social evolution and representation of women during this period.

The Modern Woman: Drawings by Degas, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Other Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Musée d’Orsay, and curated by Isabelle Julia, Musée d’Orsay. The Exhibition Commissioners are Guy Cogeval, président of the Musée d’Orsay; Isabelle Julia, conservateur général du patrimoine, arts graphiques, Musée d’Orsay; and Thomas Padon, assistant director / director of international partnerships, Vancouver Art Gallery.

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