By Robert Stephen
(MONTREAL, QC) – When in Montréal on pleasure, I never fail to stop in at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, particularly because their special exhibitions are so interesting and enjoyable. The Museum is 154 years old and is the only museum in Canada that attracts over a million visitors a year.
It is also the only Canadian museum to export its own exhibitions, most recently an exhibition on Jean Paul Gaultier which will be travelling to New York, London, Paris, and Melbourne.
Van Gogh to Kandinsky presents works by major European artists from 1900-1914. There are 100 paintings and works of art in the exhibition with somewhat of a focus on German and French painters.
While Paris was a great cultural centre for the French, Germany had no such cultural centre but rather regional art centres in Berlin, Dresden, Cologne, Manheim, Munich, and Essen.
The entrance to the exhibit focuses on the Exposition Universelle, held in Paris in 1900. In contrast to Germany’s obvious social stratification, Paris caught the imagination of many a young artist anxious to see the latest styles and soak in the art schools and salon exhibitions, all within the context of a Parisian society that had more relaxed social and sexual mores.
The Exposition played host to the Olympic Games and, with 23 pavilions, attracted 60 million visitors. There are interesting photos of the Exposition and one can almost feel the creativity and optimism that pervaded Paris in 1900.
One then moves through various rooms with a multitude of Paul Gaugin’s and Matisse’s to start.
One of exhibition’s rooms is labelled as Van Gogh and Modern Art. We learn that Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890 and the first major exhibition of his paintings occurred in Paris in 1901.
Van Gogh, it seemed, got off to rather a slow start.
We also see emerging modern German art in the paintings of Christian Rohlfs and Karl Schmidt Rottluff.
In a room labelled Les Faudres (Wild Beasts) we are informed Les Faudres referred to a group of artists including Matisse, Derain, Braque, Dufy, and de Vlaminck. An equivalent German group of painters centred in Dresden called themselves Die Brucke (the Bridge) and was comprised of Kirchner, Blegl, Heckel, and Schmidt.
Die Brucke has a room devoted to some of their paintings.
The modus operendi of Die Brucke was based on freedom to create.
And as young people we want to create freedom to move and live vis-a-vis older and well established forces. Everyone who renders in a direct and undistorted way that which causes him to create is one of us.
We are also introduced to Cezanne’s influence on cubism. Cubists looked for structure and configuration. Interestingly enough, the term cubism was coined by an anti-cubist art critic who did not like all the tiny cubes he thought he saw in cubist paintings.
The exhibition concludes with a room dedicated to the Great War of 1914-18 and has some photos of the artists in military uniform. There are also battle pictures.
United in art but fractured by war, it’s a bitter end to a wonderful exhibit so full of creativity, imagination, and colour, and leaves you thinking about war and its effect on artistic creativity and collegiality.
Derain sums it up.
There is no hope from any side. Madness and stupidity is everywhere. Besides no one understands what is going on here. It’s simply total ruination.
This exhibit ends on January 25.
After an emotional rollercoaster of seeing Van Gogh to Kandinsky, it was off to see Warhol Mania.
Of course, when you hear the name Andy Warhol you think Campbell Soup cans or, perhaps, his picture of Marilyn Monroe. Dig a little deeper and note that he did over 1,000 illustrations for magazines, 45 book covers, and 52 posters dealing with consumer products, music stars, and cultural events.
I love one of the comments on the exhibition walls that Warhol reconciled art with marketing.
I finally understand Warhol in a few words.
After seeing Van Gogh to Kandinsky, I’d have to say Warhol Mania was light and fizzy and provided a comprehensive look of Warhol beyond the Campbell’s soup can. The exhibit ends on March 15.