Impressionist France Exhibition to Open at Nelson-Atkins this Fall

Kansas City, MO. July 2013—A groundbreaking exhibition of mid-19th century French painting and photography opens at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City Oct. 19, 2013 where it will be on view through Feb. 9, 2014 and at The Saint Louis Art Museum from March 16 through July 6, 2104. Featuring approximately 125 works, Impressionist France: Visions of Nation from Le Gray to Monet takes visitors on a vicarious journey through the spectacular French landscape, emphasizing connections between photography, painting and the emerging Impressionist artists during a period in which France was being fundamentally transformed and modernized (1850-1880). Key paintings by well-known artists such as Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, as well as important photographs by influential photographers like Gustave Le Gray and Édouard Baldus will be featured.

“This pioneering exhibition juxtaposes two contrasting mediums, Photography and Painting, at a time in which each forces new perspectives for the other,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Director of the Nelson-Atkins. “Photography allows for an accurate record of reality, liberating artists from realism, inaugurating the movement of Impressionism. This exhibition explores through these two mediums the birth of modernity and transports us to a time when France was evolving from its rural traditions to industrial modernity. The Nelson-Atkins is delighted to present this exhibition with the Saint Louis Art Museum, and bring to our region so many works together for the first time.”

The exhibition is curated by Simon Kelly, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Saint Louis, and April M. Watson, Associate Curator of Photography at the Nelson-Atkins.

“Painters and photographers were responding to rapid changes in the landscape by composing visions of France that both embraced modernity and rejected it,” said Watson.  “Impressionist France explores these fascinating tensions in a wide range of stunning landscape imagery.”

Visitors will encounter works as if traveling the countryside, scaling mountains and strolling by the sea, while also appreciating the ways in which these paintings and photographs engage with the show’s conceptual underpinnings linking landscape and nationhood.

"Landscape imagery was an important aspect of the broader campaign to construct a new sense of nation in France during this time,” said Kelly. “Impressionist France explores the way painters and photographers constructed an idea of France through their explorations of the country's exceptionally rich and diverse geography and history."

Works will be grouped into seven sections that explore different types of landscape: Paris and the Modern Cityscape, Monuments, Forests and Rivers, Rural and Agricultural Life, Railroads and Factories, Mountains, and Marine Views. 

This exhibition will include important works from 42 museums and private collections, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Musées nationaux du Palais de Compiègne, among many others. It will also be the first major exhibition to feature significant and important new acquisitions by the Nelson-Atkins in 19th-century French photography. 

This exhibition has been co-organized by The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and Saint Louis Art Museum. Support is provided by the Hall Family Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, The Manuel Rivera-Ortiz Foundation for Documentary Photography & Film, and the Campbell-Calvin Fund and Elizabeth C. Bonner Charitable Trust for exhibitions.

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

The Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City is recognized nationally and internationally as one of America’s finest art museums. The Nelson-Atkins serves the community by providing access and insight into its renowned collection of more than 33,500 art objects and is best known for its Asian art, European and American paintings, photography, modern sculpture, and new American Indian and Egyptian galleries. Housing a major art research library and the Ford Learning Center, the Museum is a key educational resource for the region. The institution-wide transformation of the Nelson-Atkins has included the 165,000-square-foot Bloch Building expansion and renovation of the original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Building.

The Nelson-Atkins is located at 45th and Oak Streets, Kansas City, MO. Hours are Wednesday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursday/Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, Noon-5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free to everyone. For museum information, phone 816.751.1ART (1278) or visit nelson-atkins.org.

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