Art

The MFAH unveils new exhibition showcasing Masterpieces from van Gogh to Manet

March 12, 2023

Vincent van Gogh, Tarascon Stagecoach, 1888, oil on canvas, the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum. Photograph: Bruce M. White

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) unveils a new exhibition of 38 masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism art from the Pearlman Foundation.

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Edgar Degas, After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself, 1890s, oil on canvas, the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum. Photograph: Bruce M. White

The Pearlman Foundation

In the late 19th and early 20th century, European artists' ability to travel along newly industrialized railway lines, 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.

Cézanne, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, van Gogh and more

It will explore the friendships the artists developed in Paris and the many varied locations and sites that shaped their work. 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.

The exhibition will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from May 21 through September 17, 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.

Gary Tinterow, Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Édouard Manet, Young Woman in a Round Hat, c. 1877–79, oil on canvas, the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum.
Édouard Manet, Young Woman in a Round Hat, c. 1877–79, oil on canvas, the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum.

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 juxtapose Pearlman's pictures with works from the MFAH collection to broaden the artists' representation and highlight Henry Pearlman's distinctive point of view.

Henry Pearlman was fascinated by both the art and the lived experiences of the artists he collected. He was interested in work that reflected creative experimentation and meaningful exchanges and relationships between painters and sculptors. He was especially drawn to artists whose travels and emigration stimulated creative exchange and innovation, so his collection highlights Paris's dynamic and increasingly international artistic crossroads during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Ann Dumas, the MFAH consulting curator of European art

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About the Exhibition

The installation's organization will explore personal and artistic relationships 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 their work. 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 understanding of color and developing a signature style.

Gauguin

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 interpretations of Tahitian myths, but the sculptural format evokes the Maori wood carvings that the artist had seen in New Zealand.

Amedeo Modigliani, Jean Cocteau, 1916, oil on canvas, the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum. Photograph: Bruce M. White

Chaim Soutine, Jacques Lipchitz, and Amedeo Modigliani, all Jewish immigrants to Paris, came there with new ideas about painting and sculpture and 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 includeCistern 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.

Alfred Sisley, River View, 1889, oil on canvas, the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum.
Photograph: Bruce M. White

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 him there in 1948 and sat for his portrait, presented here, as is Lipchitz's 1952 portrait bust of the collector.

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The Museum will include in the exhibition several works from its own Audrey Jones Beck Collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early modern paintings, assembled during the same period as the Pearlmans' acquisitions. The synergy between the two collections will amplify the presentation of specific 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.