1. Two for the price of one.
Bohèmes, one of the current shows in the Grand Palais, Paris (until January 14th, 2013, admissions €13.-), plays on the double meaning of the word of the title in French, which refers both to gypsies, and to the marginal lifestyle led by advanced artists in 19th century, especially in Paris. The exhibition explores the common ground between them. It therefore offers you a double show, the first being a survey on gypsies in Western European Art (and 19th century Hungarian paintings), and the second on the struggles, miseries and works of art produced by impoverished, yet resolute free artistic spirits. Gustave Courbet’s (1819-1877) Bonjour Mr Courbet (oil on canvas, 1332 x 150.5 cm., 1854) from the Musée Fabre, Montpellier, offers the point of junction between the two worlds: the artist portrays himself as a wandering traveller, respectfully greeted on the spot by a middle-class friend and client. On the other hand, the show comes with a nice surprise for the Catalan visitor. Many of the paintings portraying the Bohemian Paris were in fact by Catalan artists living there at the time – a sense of accomplishment came from seeing Ramon Casas’ (1866-1932) Madeleine (oil on canvas, 117 x 90 cm, 1892, Museu de Montserrat) on the opposite wall from Edgar Degas’ (1834-1917) In a Coffee-Room or l’abshinte (oil on canvas, 92 x 68.5 cm, 1873, Musée du Quai d’Orsay).
2. Small is beautiful.
As noted, the Museu de Montserrat is one of the lenders to the exhibition in the Grand Palais (as a matter of fact, one of the major lenders to it). Part of the Benedictine Monastery in the hills of Montserrat, this not so little museum is living some extraordinary years under the leadership of Father Josep Laplana. It not only attracts new donations – except some very early purchases, the vast majority of the museum holdings have come in as gifts, but also dealing with major centres on an equal basis. On November 13th, it received two fine paintings (The gipsy of pomegranate, c. 1904, oil on canvas, 114.5 x 147.5 cm, and Portrait of Sonia de Klamery, countess of Pradère, 1913, oil on canvas, 188 x 126 cm; see press note here) by Hermen Anglada – Camarasa (1851-1979), in a an 11-month loan from the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia – in exchange for Salvador Dalí’s (1904-1989) Neocubist Academy (oil on canvas 190x 200 cm, 1926), which travelled to París for the retrospective opening in the Centre Pompidou this Wednesday (until March 25th, admissions €13.-), that will then transfer to MNCARS in Madrid. Besides, the Museu publishes El Propileu, an interesting on-line news bulletin.
3. See you in Barcelona?
But precisely because of this strong Catalan presence, the absence in the exhibition of any work by Isidre Nonell (1872-1911), was somehow disconcerting. In Nonell’s life and art, the two bohèmes clearly converged: his choice of earnest, human, not a bit topical portraits of gypsy women as his main subject gained him the establishment refusal, and a life as a bohemian artist in the Barcelona of the early 20th century – with some short stays in Paris. Works like Misery (oil on canvas, 75 x 100 cm, 1904, MNAC) shows that in his case, the double meaning of bohème was more than a happy troubaille. That said, and taking into account that one of the main sponsors of the Grand Palais show is Fundación Mapfre (the cultural arm of the Spanish insurance company), and that they will bring the show to its headquarters in Madrid in January 2013, I can only hope they will make it travel a little further east, so we can also greet it in this city.
4. Destination Madrid
Should you cannot make it to Bohèmes in Paris, think about waiting for them in Madrid. The Spanish capital is now a must-go for fans of Old Master’s and 19th century art, and the Museo del Prado will be its centrepoint. Young Van Dyck is inaugurating this Thursday in the Prado (until March 13, 2013, admissions €12,.-), Martín Rico, the landscaper is already there (until February 20th, 2013, admissions €12,.-), and two interesting works had joined the party a bit earlier: Portrait of a Young Man (oil on canvas, 68, 6 x 55.2 cm, 1630 – 1635) by Velázquez (1599-1960), from the Metropolitan (until January 23th, 2013), and the rediscovered, and heavily restored Titian’s (c.1489 – 1576) Saint John the Baptist (oil on canvas, 195 x 127.5 cm, c. 1555, reclaimed by the Museum from the parish church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Cantoria in the province of Almeria; until February 10th, 2013). Add to that Goya and the Infante Don Luís (Palacio Real, until January 20th, admissions €5.-), about the Aragonese genius and one of his most important patrons, the opening for the first time in history of Duchy of Alba’s family collection, in their Palacio de Liria home (from December 1st to March 31st, 2013, admissions to be announced) – arguably the most important, and historically charged Old Master’s collection in Spanish private hands. Among the 150 or so works, expect the Titian, Goya, Rubens, Zurbarán, Renoir, and Chagall highlighted by the press – and also the only two pure landscapes by Ribera known to date. But just in case you have a more modern taste, Gaugin and the Voyage to the exotic (until January 13th, admissions for €10.-) is open for you, with its international loans, in the nearby Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza.
5. And from Madrid to the stars
Coll & Cortés, a leading Madrid Old Master dealership which opened its shop in Calle Justianano just some ten years ago, has put a new milestone in on its road to stardom. If 2012 has already seen their first official participation in TEFAF Maastricht, and in the inaugural Frieze Masters, London, they can now head to a merry Christmas after convincing the Metropolitan Museum, New York, to buy a stupendous The Penitent Saint Peter (1612-1613, measurements not given) by José de Ribera (1591-1652; see report in NYT) from them. This work from the artist’s early years comes 40 years after the Met’s last purchase of a painting from the Spanish School, and it was discovered by Gianni Pappi, the Italian researcher who established the hitherto anonymous Master of the Judgement of Salomon was hiding the artist’s entire early output (as seen in The Young Ribera, in the exhibition at Museo del Prado from April 5th to August 25th, 2011).
6. Getting closer
We read in Le Figaro that the Musée Courbet of Ornans isnearing the fabulous 4 million euros asked by the Japanese owner of Gustave Courbet’s (1819 – 1877) masterpiece The Oak at Flagey (also known as The Oak of Vercingetorix, oil on canvas, 89 cm x 100 cm, 1864). It seems that the support shown by private firms (€2.5M) and the general public (€200,000 by a thousand donors) will prompt public authorities in the region and Paris to offer the remaining €1.3M, therefore backing the bid by Mr. Claude Jeannerot, the noted president of the regional council of the Franche-Comté, of transforming the town (population 4,000) into a Courbet’s international hotspot.
7. Porticvm works.
A year ago, we noted the launch of Porticvm, a half-yearly online journal on Medieval Studies managed by a group of young Catalan researchers, and focused on publishing the studies of their colleagues around Europe. They have just released its fourth issue, with no less than three studies coming from Italy. For the local news, there is an interesting article by Lorena García Morato, in which she bravely downsizes the catalogue Master of Roussillon to just four works, and also advances Arnau Pintor as his real name (Lorena García Morato, The Master of Roussillon. A catalogue raisonné, p. 64 – 79). The Master’s or Pintor’s Calvary (c.1415-1425, tempera on panel, 114,5 x 80 cm) from the Kunstmuseum Basel was one of the interesting discoveries (for the general public) in Catalonia 1400. The International Gothic Style, the exhibition hanging in the MNAC in Barcelona last spring (March, 29 – July, 15, 2012).