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Title

: From Manet to Toulouse-Lautrec: Impressionist Works on Paper

Author

Lisa Dickinson Michaux

Date

1995

Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
To inaugurate its new 19th-century gallery, the Department of Prints and Drawings will be exhibiting a stunning assortment of late-19th-century French masterworks. "From Manet to Toulouse-Lautrec: Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Works on Paper," September 15, 1995, through March 17, 1996, includes examples by 23 artists, including such luminaries as Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Odilon Redon, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vincent van Gogh.The exhibition offers vivid examples of how artists incorporated the ideas of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Symbolism into their prints and drawings. During this era, many practitioners of traditional oil painting began to experiment in the print mediums of etching, lithography, and woodcutting. Some of these artists made contributions to theater programs, advertising posters, journals, books, and portfolios. They knew that prints provided the most effective way to get their work out to the public at an affordable price.Both artists and critics were responsible for a revival of etching in the 1860s, and Degas and Camille Pissarro championed experimentation with the technique. Both artists would routinely rework the etching plate several times to get their desired effect. Included in the exhibition is Degas's Leaving the Bath (1879-80), the only known impression of the artist's 22nd reworking of the plate. Degas intended to publish a journal illustrated with artists' prints, for which Pissarro created Wooded Landscape at L'Hermitage, Pontoise (1879), also included in the exhibition. When the journal failed to materialize, Pissarro showed four states of the etching at the Impressionist exhibition of 1880.The experimental nature of Degas's and Pissarro's graphics strongly influenced Mary Cassatt, an American expatriate working in Paris. Cassatt, along with many other artists of the period, attended a huge exhibition of Japanese ukiyo-e color woodblock prints held at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1890. This experience prompted her to create her own color prints inspired by Japanese models. Encouraged by both Degas and Pissarro, she proceeded to produce the technically demanding color aquatint and drypoint titled The Barefooted Child in 1896-97. The exhibition includes both a color and a monochromatic version of this image.Lithography was the newest technique available to the artists of the period. In 1796, the Bavarian playwright Alois Senefelder discovered that he could inexpensively reproduce his scripts by printing them from greasy crayons and inks applied to slabs of limestone. The method offered unlimited commercial possibilities and was used for most of the 19th century to reproduce paintings for the public. However, with the perfection of the photomechanical process at the end of the century, lithography evolved from merely being a way to copy works of art and became an artistic technique as well.Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's contributions to the development of color lithography cannot be overemphasized. When his posters for cabaret performers appeared on the streets of Paris in the 1890s, their flat areas of bold color and unusual compositions created a sensation. Toulouse-Lautrec was also a master at subtly mixing color in prints, such as in A Ride in the Country (1897). Pierre-Auguste Renoir was able to achieve many of the same results in his color lithographs that he did in his paintings. For example, the delicate colors and soft lines of The Hat Pin (1898) suggest Renoir's characteristic depiction of female voluptuousness.Younger artists, notably Paul Gauguin, also revitalized woodcut, the oldest printing method. Inspired by his experiences in the South Seas, Gauguin created a suite of illustrations for Noa Noa, a book he intended to be used as a guide to his Tahitian paintings, sculptures, and drawings. Gauguin made each print unique through his choice of paper, ink, color, and hand work. In the Institute's impression of Noa Noa (1893-94), a subtle touch of red enhances the black image. In other prints, Gauguin deliberately set the woodblocks off a fraction of an inch to impart a sense of movement.A generous gift from Kenneth and Lillian Smith has been instrumental in organizing this installation. The Smiths assembled their collection of 19th-century French prints with the help of the Institute's Prints and Drawings curators in the 1960s and 1970s. Kenneth Smith had an eye for quality and a love of the print medium and was able to acquire such masterpieces as Mary Cassatt's The Barefooted Child and Edouard Manet's color lithograph Punchinello (1874). The Smiths kept the collection in their Lake City, Minnesota, home until the pieces were moved to the Institute on extended loan in the early 1980s. Their holdings then were available for use in classes conducted in the department, as well as for exhibitions. After Kenneth Smith died in 1993, the entire collection was given to the museum. The prints in the Smith gift are an excellent complement to the Institute's permanent collection and add much to this inaugural exhibition."From Manet to Toulouse-Lautrec: Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Works on Paper," on display in gallery 305, opens in conjunction with the reinstallation of the 19th- and 20th-century paintings galleries.Lisa Michaux is the John E. Andrus III curatorial intern in the Department of Prints and Drawings.Related ImagesMary Cassatt
American, 1844-1926
The Barefooted Child, about 1896-97
Color drypoint and aquatint
Gift of Kenneth and Lillian SmithHenri de Toulouse-Lautrec
French, 1864-1901
A Ride in the Country, 1897
Color lithograph
The Martha Torrance Wallace Memorial FundPierre-Auguste Renoir
French, 1841-1919
The Hat Pin, 1898
Color lithograph
Gift of Grace Bliss DaytonPaul Gauguin
French, 1848-1903
Noa-Noa, 1893-94
Woodcut
Gift of Kenneth and Lillian SmithEdouard Manet
French, 1832-83
Punchinello, 1874
Color lithograph
Gift of Kenneth and Lillian SmithJean-Emile Laboureur
French, 1877-1943
Ernest, 1902-11
Woodcut and color lithograph
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cleveland
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Source: Lisa Michaux, "From Manet to Toulouse-Lautrec: Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Works on Paper. Artists whose names we associate with painting explored printing techniques to produce engaging results," <i>Arts</i> 18, no. 9 (September 1995): 8-9.
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Added to Site: March 10, 2009