January 11, 2009
BMA Presents First Exhibition to Explore Cézanne’s Influence on American Art
BALTIMORE, MD (January 11, 2009)—Discover how Cézanne transformed American art at the beginning of the 20th century. Cézanne and American Modernism, on view February 14 – May 23, 2010, brings together 16 of the French master’s paintings and watercolors with more than 80 works by 33 American artists, including Marsden Hartley, Maurice Prendergast, Alfred Stieglitz, and Man Ray. Along with the BMA’s two great Cézanne paintings, Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry and Bathers, the exhibition showcases outstanding works from public and private collections throughout the U.S., including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This nationally traveling exhibition is co-organized by the Montclair Art Museum and The Baltimore Museum of Art. It is a special ticketed event that includes complimentary audio tours for both adults and kids.
Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) is universally acclaimed as the father of modern art for his revolutionary use of flattened perspective, carefully structured compositions, and his signature technique of painting with patches of color. This exhibition is the first to reveal how a small group of pioneering American artists championed the reclusive French artist before he gained international prominence. Although these painters and photographers never met Cézanne in person, his long and prolific career provided many avenues of influence for them to explore.
The transformative impact of Cézanne’s painting is vividly illustrated by the American artists’ adaptations of his stylistic hallmarks and subjects. Marsden Hartley was introduced to Cezanne’s work in 1911, moved to the south of France in 1925 to be closer to the native countryside of his mentor, and produced his own rugged and colorful modern landscapes. Cézanne’s powerful images of bathers in the landscape moved Man Ray to pay homage in his Cubist-inspired compositions of the same topic. The French artist’s strong and powerful portraits motivated Stanton Macdonald-Wright to produce an image of his brother in a colorful and confident style. John Marin’s free-flowing watercolors are notable for their suggestive power, freshness, and immediacy. Artists such as Patrick Henry Bruce, Andrew Dasburg, and Charles Demuth were inspired by Cézanne’s still-life compositions and variously reflect his affinity for vibrant colors, tilted table tops, multiple views, and complex structures.
Cézanne’s influence on early 20th-century American photography is examined for the first time with examples by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, and others who played a pivotal role in introducing modernism to America. Their experimentation included closely cropped portraits, abstract still lifes, and nudes and bathers in landscape settings.
Another surprising aspect of the exhibition is Cézanne’s remarkable impact on art in the western United States. Artists Willard Nash, Józef Bakoś, B.J.O Nordfeldt, and others spent varying lengths of time in the region and merged Cézanne’s influence with inspiration from the western landscape and culture. Cézanne also inspired a new generation of younger artists who discovered him for the first time during the 1920s. This includes Arshile Gorky, who created strikingly faithful imitations of Cézanne’s work while living in New York. African-American artists William H. Johnson and Hale Woodruff both visited France at this time and embraced aspects of Cézanne’s palette and structural style early in their careers.
Cézanne and American Modernism is organized by the Montclair Art Museum and The Baltimore Museum of Art, and curated in Baltimore by Katy Rothkopf, BMA Senior Curator of European Painting & Sculpture.
This exhibition is made possible by Bank of America.
It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional funding is provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art, The Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Leir Charitable Foundations, and the Thaw Charitable Trust.
Generous local sponsorship is provided by The Rouse Company Foundation and by David L. Warnock and Deidre A. Bosley.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue co-published by Yale University Press and The Baltimore Museum of Art. It is co-authored by Montclair Art Museum Chief Curator Dr. Gail Stavitsky and BMA Senior Curator of European Painting & Sculpture Katy Rothkopf. The 376-page catalogue features 190 illustrations and is available at The BMA Shop.
Discovering Cézanne in Paris
American artists first began to encounter Cézanne’s work in the early years of the 20th century. American expatriate Leo Stein can be credited with spreading knowledge about the French master’s genius to many collectors and artists as he acquired his first Cézanne painting in 1904. He shared his discovery with his sister, the writer Gertrude Stein, who joined him in the eventual purchase of at least 18 works by the artist. The Stein’s Parisian apartment was the primary gathering place for many American and European artists, as well as collectors such as Baltimore sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, who could see works by Cézanne side-by-side with paintings by Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
Early admiration of Cézanne’s work also came from the pivotal Salon d’Automne memorial exhibition of 1907. The exhibition had a profound effect on Henri Matisse, who passed along his admiration of Cézanne’s work to his American students, including Max Weber and Alfred Maurer. In the art classes that he taught from 1907 to 1911, Matisse clearly communicated his appreciation for Cézanne, whom he regarded as “the father of us all.”
Cézanne in America
In the U.S., the pioneering gallery 291, opened by photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, was the first to exhibit Cézanne’s works in a group show in 1910 and then a solo exhibition in 1911. Cézanne and American Modernism presents archival materials documenting the occasion such as a rare group of black-and-white photographs of Cézanne’s paintings by Parisian photographer-gallery owner Eugène Druet. These images are being shown for the first time since they were lent by American modernist Max Weber to gallery 291 in 1910.
The landmark Armory Show of modern art in 1913 was the American public’s first real introduction to modern art, and featured 13 oil paintings, one watercolor, and two prints by Cézanne. Two paintings from the Armory Show on view in the exhibition include the first Cézanne ever purchased by an American museum, View of the Domaine Saint-Joseph, which was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Oscar Bluemner’s Hackensack River. Also on view are rare postcards and a relatively unknown but seminal booklet on the artist that was made available during the show.
Americans’ fascination with Cézanne’s work has continued to grow in appreciation through the late 20th and early 21st centuries, as major exhibitions around the world reveal more about the genius of this great artist. Cézanne presciently told a young artist, “Perhaps I came to soon. I was a painter of your generation more than my own.”
About the Baltimore Museum of Art
Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.