Exhibition visit: Degas to Picasso: creating modernism in France

14th February 2017 and again 29th April 2017: OCA study day Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

(All websites accessed 6th may 2017)

Many thanks to OCA and the lovely Clare Wilson who led the study day.

I loved this exhibition (hence went twice). The exhibition charts the journey of Modernism through the (mostly) drawing and painting of French artists. Modernism is a broad term that refers to the development of art practices that deliberately reject previous styles and formats, lending themselves to portray a more modern society (Tate museum: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/m/modernism ) As such there is a move away from history and religious story-telling and portraiture as a means of displaying wealth, to a looser style of art encompassing different materials portraying modern (post 1850) scenes. Some of the work on display was preparatory work, where ideas can be seen to be played with and concepts toyed with. In particular the growth towards cubism is evident in the exhibition, with artists starting to play with perspective from early 1900’s. What has become evident to me since returning from the exhibition is how unusual it was to see some of these works, which form a private collection. Apart from the museum catalogue that I purchased, there appears to be very little in the way of an accessible database for many (if not most) of these drawings. I have put in links to images below where I can, but many just do not have an on-line presence to share.

Highlights of the collection for me were:

  • Monet, Sailing Boat beached on the Shore at Sainte-Adresse (part of a series of charcoals charting the demise of the beached boat. A later drawing in the series is seen here
  • Degas, Women after her Bath
  • Degas, After the Bath, Women Drying her Leg. Both preparatory sketches for Degas bath paintings.
  • Roger de la Fresnaye, The Curiassier, a preparatory drawing for this painting
  • Albert Gleizes, Still life.
  • Jean Metzinger Landscape
  • Georges Rouault, The Way is Long

I usually like works by Pablo Picasso, but this time the four or five pieces in this exhibition did little for me. However I would leave the last word of the matter to my 9 year old son who pointed out where Lucas films may have got their inspiration for the Gungan characters in Starwars: Picasso’s Head of a Woman (on of many and again no on-line presence so you have to make do with my drawing of it).

Drawn from Picasso, Head of Woman




Exhibition visit: Degas to Picasso: creating modernism in France

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