Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces from the Pearlman Foundation now at the MFAH
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Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces from the Pearlman Foundation now at the MFAH
Camille Pissarro, Still Life: Apples and Pears in a Round Basket, 1872, oil on canvas, the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum.

HOUSTON, TX.- In the late 19th and into the early 20th century, European artists’ ability to travel along newly industrialized railway lines, and cross paths and share ideas, led to the transmission and evolution of varied artistic styles. Impressionist and Post- Impressionist Masterpieces from the Pearlman Foundation will present 38 outstanding works from the renowned collection assembled in the second half of the 20th century by New York collectors Henry and Rose Pearlman. Paintings and sculptures by Cézanne, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, van Gogh, Pissarro, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Soutine, Lipchitz and others will be seen within the context of their experience of transience – regional, national, and international. It will explore the friendships the artists developed in Paris, as well as the many varied locations and sites that shaped their work. The exhibition opened at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on May 21st and will continue through September 17th, 2023.

“Henry Pearlman’s highly personal approach to collecting sought to capture the momentum of art and thought at the dawn of the modern era,” commented Gary Tinterow, Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “This exhibition is an exceptionally rare opportunity for visitors to see this distinguished collection outside of its home at Princeton University. For this presentation, we will be juxtaposing Pearlman pictures with works from the MFAH collection in order to broaden the representation of the artists, as well as to highlight Henry Pearlman’s distinctive point of view.”

Ann Dumas, MFAH consulting curator of European art, noted, “Henry Pearlman was fascinated by both the art and the lived experiences of the artists he collected. He was interested in work that reflected not only creative experimentation, but also meaningful exchanges and relationships between painters and sculptors. He was especially drawn to artists whose travels and emigration stimulated creative exchange and innovation, and so his collection highlights the dynamic and increasingly international artistic crossroads of Paris during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

The installation’s organization will explore relationships, both personal and artistic, between artists, broader cultural movements and Pearlman as a collector.

The pairing of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin alludes to their mutual influence. Van Gogh’s search for inspiration led him from the Netherlands to England, Belgium, Paris and eventually the South of France. Gauguin’s trajectory took him to Peru, France, Tahiti and the Marquesas. The two artists met in Paris in the fall of 1887, and developed an alliance that profoundly influenced both of their work. Included here is van Gogh’s Tarascon Stagecoach (1888), painted in Arles. Van Gogh produced this painting to impress Gauguin with how the qualities of light in southern France had transformed the younger artist’s own understanding of color and developing signature style. Presented in this gallery along with van Gogh’s Tarascon Stagecoach is Gauguin’s Te Fare Amu (The House for Eating) (1895 or 1897), a polychromed woodcarving. The imagery connects to Gauguin’s personal interpretations of Tahitian myths, but the sculptural format evokes the Maori wood carvings that the artist had seen in New Zealand.

Chaim Soutine, Jacques Lipchitz and Amedeo Modigliani, all Jewish immigrants to Paris, each came there with new ideas about painting and sculpture, and each settled in the famed cosmopolitan artists’ residence La Ruche (The Beehive) in Montparnasse, where prolific cross-cultural connections fueled their creative output. Here, three portraits by Modigliani – two paintings and a limestone -- and three landscapes and three portraits by Soutine express how these leading School of Paris artists remained true to figuration while distorting form for expressive ends. Four Lipchitz sculptures show both his expressive and his more naturalistic approach.

The exhibition also presents the strength of Henry Pearlman’s collection of Paul Cézanne’s paintings and watercolors. One section of the exhibition will consider the significance of Cézanne’s native Aix-en-Provence on his sense of self and his work. It will also evoke his times in Paris and the artistic relationships he forged there. Featured paintings include Cistern in the Grounds of the Château Noir (c. 1900), Route to Le Tholonet, (1900-04) and a Mont Sainte-Victoire (c. 1904-06), from one of Cézanne’s most iconic series.

Finally, Henry Pearlman sought out artists, developing lasting relationships with several, including Lipchitz and the Austrian painter Oskar Kokoschka. With the advent of World War II, Lipchitz fled Europe for New York, where he was welcomed by Pearlman and other patrons, and critics. Kokoschka took refuge in London. Pearlman met with him there in 1948, and sat for his portrait, which is presented here, as is Lipchitz’s 1952 portrait bust of the collector.

The Museum will include in the exhibition several works from its own Audrey Jones Beck Collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early modern painting, which was assembled during the same period as the Pearlmans’ acquisitions. The synergy between the two collections will amplify the presentation of certain artists, notably Cézanne and Gauguin, and provide a perspective on American collecting in the mid-20th century, presenting enlightening contexts through which to view both collections.

The Pearlman Collection

The Henry & Rose Pearlman Foundation Collection was assembled by Henry Pearlman (1895-1974), one of the finest such collections in private hands. Pearlman, the son of Russian immigrant parents, was born in New York City. A self-made businessman, he founded, at 24, the Eastern Cold Storage Insulation Corporation in New York, developing and manufacturing marine insulation. In January 1945 Pearlman happened to pass the window of a Manhattan auction house, and spotted a Chaim Soutine landscape. Enchanted by the painting, he made a successful bid for the work - View of Céret (1921-22), on view in this exhibition – and that first purchase triggered a passion for collecting that endured for the rest of his life. He thrived on the thrill of the hunt and uncovering hidden masterworks, learning about the social bonds among artists and their mutual aesthetic influences. The Pearlman Collection has been on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum since the mid-1970s.

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