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Major exhibition of 19th-century French floral still-life paintings debuts at Dallas Museum of Art
Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bouquet of Flowers in a Blue Porcelain Vase, 1776, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund and gift of Michael L. Rosenberg.

DALLAS, TX.- The Dallas Museum of Art is presenting the first major U.S. exhibition to explore French floral still-life painting in the 19th century. Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse traces the development of the floral still life from the late 18th century through the early 20th century, emphasizing the tremendous depth and scope of creative engagement with the genre throughout this era. The exhibition features more than 60 paintings by more than 30 artists, including renowned figures such as Paul Cézanne, Gustave Courbet, Eugène Delacroix, Vincent van Gogh and Edouard Manet, along with less familiar contemporaries such as Simon Saint-Jean and Henri Fantin-Latour. On view from October 26, 2014, through February 8, 2015, Bouquets positions floral paintings within a broader art historical and cultural narrative and reveals how the traditional genre was reinvented through artistic experimentation in the 19th century.

Co-organized by the DMA and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse provides a thorough reassessment of the genre, which has previously been underexplored and appreciated for its decorative qualities alone. The show features masterpieces from a variety of public and private collections, including eight works from the DMA’s permanent collection—among them a painting by Gustave Caillebotte acquired in 2010 and which is appearing in its first public exhibition since the artist’s death in 1894. The diverse range of featured paintings highlights the commitment of artists to the floral still life—many of whom are not readily associated with the genre—and underscores the active exchange of ideas, styles, and modes among artists throughout this time.

“The DMA is committed to organizing and presenting exhibitions that prompt critical reflections on a variety of periods and genres. Bouquets offers an exciting opportunity to examine the traditional still life through a largely unexplored cultural lens, expanding scholarship and understanding of 19th-century painting,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “The exhibition features masterworks from the DMA’s collection in dialogue with works from the VMFA and numerous international collections, providing our audiences with a new experience of the genre.”

Bouquets situates floral still life as an important vehicle for the examination of nature and culture and a potent source for painterly meditation. The exhibition explores the ways in which artists working in floral still life incorporated and responded to evolutions in approaches to both the arts and sciences, and provides a sense of discovery in the variety of artistic purposes and achievements in this genre.

“Visitors to Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse will appreciate not only the sheer visual splendor of the works on display, but also the discovery of a clear artistic dialogue among artists of different generations working in the floral still-life tradition,” said Heather MacDonald, the DMA’s Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art, who is the exhibition co-curator. “The exhibition offers a fresh perspective on both an overlooked genre and the artists who worked within it, many of whom made pivotal contributions to the development of the floral still life in ways that have not yet been fully explored.”

The exhibition follows landmark developments in the genre across nearly two centuries, and is loosely organized chronologically. A brief synopsis of topic areas follows below:

· 18th-Century Paintings—The introductory section of the exhibition explores the foundations for the formal experiments of the 19th century, and includes works by early masters such as Anne Vallayer-Coster, Jean Siméon Chardin and Pierre-Joseph Redouté.

· The Lyon School—Lyon, a center for French textile production, would serve as an important hub for experimentation and exploration of still-life painting. The section explores the relationships between academic flower painting, decorative applications of still life, and the demands of mass production in textiles. The section features works by seminal Lyonnais painters who responded to these trends, including Antoine Berjon and Simon Saint-Jean, whose success rose with the expanding economy of the region.

· Early Impressionist Influences—This area examines the work of Delacroix and Courbet within the contemporary productions of artists in the Lyon school and the first stirrings of impressionist still lifes by Frédéric Bazille and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

· Henri Fantin-Latour—This section includes a diverse selection of paintings by specialist Fantin-Latour, exploring the influence of Chardin’s oeuvre on his practice as well as the impact of still life paintings by his contemporaries.

· Impressionist Practice—During the1870s and 1880s, artists began taking greater liberties with color, light and space. The exhibition features works by artists such as Camille Pissarro, Cézanne and Renoir, as well as contemporary flower paintings by Manet.

· After Impressionism—The section examines the years between the end of the impressionist movement and the close of the 19th century, with a particular emphasis on van Gogh’s deep interest in the genre and lasting impact on contemporaries.

· 20th-Century Explorations—The exhibition concludes with the work of three 20th-century artists who continued the floral still-life tradition: Odilon Redon, Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse.

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