Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Louvre Abu Dhabi Opens with Spectacular Loans

Louvre Abu Dhabi aspires to be a universal museum that highlights interconnections, exchanges and conversations between civilizations and the similarities and differences between their artistic traditions. When the museum opens, approximately half of the art works displayed will be from its own collection and half will be loans from leading French museums. Both acquisitions and loaned works have been chosen and assembled with two criteria in mind: their intrinsic merits and their relevance to the narrative thread of the exhibition itinerary.

Some of the most remarkable items loaned by French museums are presented below.

Woman Portrait, also called La Belle Ferronnière
Leonardo da Vinci
Milan, Italy, 1495-1499
Wood (noyer)
Musée du Louvre, Paintings Departement
© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Angèle Dequier

Leonardo da Vinci is probably one of the most famous and popular artists in the history of art. Louvre Abu Dhabi will have the opportunity to display one of his most attractive works - a portrait of an elegantly dressed young woman painted when the artist was based in Milan. Thematically, this picture will illustrate Renaissance artists' quest for naturalism with the aid of the new technique of oil painting. It will echo Louvre Abu Dhabi's own Bellini’s Madonna and Child, also painted in oil on wood, another head-and-shoulders portrait in which the figure is depicted behind a parapet and against a dark background.

Woman with a Mirror
Tiziano Vecellio, known as Titian
Venice, Italy, c. 1515
99.0 x 76.0 cm
oil on canvas
Musée du Louvre, Paintings Department
© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

The softness and new sensuality with which Titian depicted his human subjects represent a crucial turning-point in the history of European art. Like the Da Vinci portrait, this painting, loaned by Musée du Louvre, will be located in a section focusing on the new naturalism in Renaissance painting.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps
Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)
France, 1803
Oil on canvas
267.5 x 223 cm
Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon
© RMN (Château de Versailles) F. Raux

This portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte on horseback is an iconic image. This remarkable painting that illustrates the genius of the most important painter of the time captures also an important moment in history. Louvre Abu Dhabi's itinerary includes a section about the turning-point of the late 18th century when the American and French Revolutions and the rise of Napoleon sparked a feeling that individuals could change the course of history. Louvre Abu Dhabi has acquired a portrait of George Washington which fits also perfectly in this theme.

The Fife player
Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
France, 1866
161 x 97 cm
Oil on canvas
Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

Manet's work epitomizes the sensibility of modern artists in search of new sources of inspiration. Fascinated by Velasquez' Pablo de Valladolid, which he first saw in the Museo del Prado in 1865, Manet borrowed several features from it in The Fife-player, painted the following year - notably the disappearing background, which especially struck him, and which he compared to air surrounding the figure. Manet chose a subject from everyday life - an anonymous boy soldier whom he turned into a monumental figure like a Spanish grandee, set in an indeterminate space. He also used a simplified language, a limited palette, and colours applied in flat blocks. Alongside The Bohemian, with its quintessentially Spanish subject, The Fife-player illustrates in a different and complementary way the influence of paintings from the Spanish Golden Age on Manet's work.

La gare Saint-Lazare
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
France, 1877
75.5 x 104 cm
Oil on canvas
Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

With this totally new subject, utterly in tune with changes taking place in the society, Monet offers more evidence of the modern sensibility. The subject of the station - a place of constant movement, with trains arriving and departing, and a temple of technology, with its glass and steel architecture, is in itself a symbol of modernity and modern life. Monet depicts the steam from the trains and the passengers against the backdrop of Haussmann's Paris. In places, the subject is subsumed by colour, resulting in an almost abstract vision. The Saint-Lazare Station provides a superb foil to another scene from modern life, Gustave Caillebotte's The Game of Bezique, from Louvre Abu Dhabi's collection.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
France, 1887
Oil on canvas
44 x 35.5 cm
Musée d'Orsay
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

This self-portrait was painted in autumn 1887, during Van Gogh's Paris period (February 1886 – February 1888). As this self-portrait shows very clearly, this period is very significant in the development of the artist's work since he discovered Impressionism at this time. His palette, which had previously been dominated by dark, blackish-brown ochre, became permanently lighter. In addition, the pure, expressive colour placed in separate, juxtaposed strokes expresses his fiery temperament. The fast painting method and spare use of materials makes this self-portrait exceptionally expressive.

Les Deux péniches
(Two barges)
André Derain (1880, Chatou – 1954, Garches)
Oil on canvas
80 x 97,5 cm
Bought in 1972
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
Musée national d’art moderne - Centre de création industrielle
photography : (c) Philippe Migeat - Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP
© Adagp, Paris

Les Deux péniches is an important painting of Derain, one of the Fauvism movement protagonists with Matisse. It is one of the masterpieces of the National museum of modern Art’s collection. It was part of the exhibition “Masterpieces” of the Centre Pompidou Metz. Painted in London, where Derain worked in the footsteps of Monet, the composition is audacious: seized from a plunging view, the motif is reduced to two barges, one of which is partially truncated by the edge of the canvas, and to the stretch of water on which they seem to be slipping. The "photographic" framing recalls the cropping of certain Japanese prints. Furthermore, the composition that suppresses the skyline increases the frontality of the painting. Regarding color, Derain’s Fauve repertoire is evident: the pure color, the high contrasts, the wide and animated strokes used for water. Although he turns later in time to sobriety and the measure, this painting definitely represents his "youthful turbulences", as mentioned by Apollinaire in 1916.