Institute, so I made a dash on Friday. It was a treat to climb the main
staircase to find excited middle-school children on a treasure hunt
through the Modern galleries. “I found it,” one exclaimed. “A woman
with two faces and a green dress on; it must be Picasso!” The special
exhibit, Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the
Avant-Garde, celebrates the influence of the Parisian dealer and
collector who gave Picasso his first show and was a friend to Auguste
Renoir, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Henri Matisse, Mary Cassatt,
Andre Derain, Maurice Denis and a host of other avant-garde artists.
The story of the way Vollard acquired his collection shows how
important it is to have a pocketbook at the right place and time.
Vollard bought paintings Theo van Gogh had on hand when his brother
Vincent died; he also seized the opportunity when Paul Gauguin,
embarking on his second trip to Tahiti, left the Breton scenes in the
studios of friends. The later, haunting masterpiece Where Do We Come
From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, on loan from the Museum of Fine
Arts in Boston, commanded a wall.
Many of the rooms were dark,
because Vollard prized works on paper; one small room displayed three
breathtaking, late pastels by Edgar Degas; also memorable were works in
charcoal by Odilon Redon. It was lovely, too, to see portfolios of
stunning prints by two of my favorite artists, Vuilllard and Bonnard.
And since Vollard commissioned his friends to try their hands at
ceramics and illustrated books, there were gorgeous examples of vases
and livres d’artiste, as well.
The exhibition has many
pictures (photographs and paintings) of Vollard himself, as well as a
short film that shows a genial Vollard asking an eagle-eyed Renoir,
whose hands by then were crippled from rheumatoid arthritis, to sign a
painting. To read more about this wonderful show, which originated at
the Met and next travels to Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
The next day Lisa and I
walked to the Art Institute School’s sale of students’ works.
Interesting prints and lovely handmade books were on sale for 30 to 40
dollars; there were fabrics and textiles, as well as plaster buddhas
and unusual jewelry (I bought a necklace for my older daughter and a
woodblock print for my younger one). Across the street, the snaking
line waiting for entrance to the Art Institute seemed not to move at