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Van Gogh to Kardinsky at the Fine Arts Museum

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By Sergio Martinez – mtltimes.ca

“Impressionism” and “expressionism” are two terms that bring images of changes in attitudes and the perception of the arts at the turn of the 20th century. That period is also one of great historical interest: the end of the Franco-Prussian War had created in Europe a sense of peace that seemed (deceivingly) to last forever; while new technological developments, from the increasing use of electricity as the new form of energy, to improved means of transportation, to the marvel of cinema, had brought prosperity to many European nations. Not for nothing this period which would end dramatically with the outbreak of World War I, became known as the “Belle Époque.”

The Paris Universal Exposition of 1900 presided over by the Eiffel Tower, built the previous year, served as the showcase for all the great inventions and developments underway at the time. But Paris was also the greatest cultural centre of the time, a place where artists were creating not only new works in the great tradition of the European masters but were also breaking with many of those traditions. An artistic revolution was taken place: modern art was being launched to the enthusiastic reception of some, to the dismay of others.

Paris was the centre of this revolution, but the artists involved in this new venture were not all French, the avant-garde was the result of a combined contribution by German, French, Dutch, Swiss, Spanish, and even American artists, all of them working in Paris at the time or regularly connected with those working in the French capital.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) has now brought to our city an impressive selection of over one hundred works by some of the most celebrated artists of that period that ended in 1914, as a way of marking the beginning of what we now call modern art. The exhibition has been called Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Impressionism to Expressionism, 1900-1914 and it will be open from October 11, 2014 to January 25, 2015.

Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the MMFA pointed out that with this exhibition the Museum “continues to explore modern art with this other great premiere, devoted to expressionism in its broader sense.” She also mentioned that “that movement to liberate colour and brushstroke united many French and German painters in the years between 1900 and 1914.” For his part, in his opening remarks the exhibition’s curator, Timothy O. Benson said that each generation has its own definition of Expressionism, implying with that the fact that each new generation too would have the opportunity to approach these works from a distinct perspective. That is one of the reasons why this exhibition is also of great importance, works by Cézanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Signac, Van Gogh, Vlaminck—all of them painting in France—and by Heckel, Kandinsky, Kirchner, Klee, Nolde, Pechstein, doing it in Germany, will be shown at the MMFA, all of them accompanied by a very interesting collection of photos and old film footage that help contextualize the work done by these great creators at a crucial period of European history. The exhibit will also be complemented by lectures, films, a series of concerts at the Bourgie Hall, and a course titled The Birth and Evolution of Expressionism given in collaboration with McGill University’s School of Continuing Studies.

This exhibition is taking place at the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion of the MMFA, 1380 Sherbrooke Street West (metro Guy-Concordia). For detailed information about admission fees, the activities connected with the exhibition and schedule, visit mbam.qc.ca

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