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D'Amour Museum in Springfield opens exhibit of 50 French artists

By Jeanette DeForge




Gallery: Old Masters to Monet Introduction to the Exhibit 12/11/11

SPRINGFIELD – A traveling exhibit of 50 French master painters opened Sunday at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, celebrating the first time the nearby Wadsworth Atheneum has ever sent its paintings on the road.

The celebration almost didn’t happen because officials at the Hartford museum did not consider offering their exhibit to neighboring Springfield, figuring it was too close.

But officials at the Springfield museum heard about the exhibit and contacted the Hartford museum asking if they could join in the tour.

In three months, supporters and employees of the D’Amour Museum were able to raise money and put together the exhibit space to become the first to receive “Old Masters to Monet: Three Centuries of French Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum,” said Heather Haskell, director of the D’Amour Museum.

The exhibit was opened with a party for museum donors and other supporters.

“It is great. It takes you across the European painters,” said Deborah Simpson, of Longmeadow, who was admiring the paintings.

Simpson said she has never been to the Wadsworth Atheneum and now wants to make the trip.

“I hope this is the tip of the iceberg of our own collaboration,” said Susan Talbott, Wadsworth Atheneum director.

Springfield has some of its own paintings by French artists, including works from the artists who are featured in the traveling collection. This will allow people to compare different paintings by the same artist, Haskell said.

The exhibit shows artists’ work stretching from the 17th century through the early 20th century. During the opening, Eric Zafran, curator of European art for the Wadsworth Atheneum and exhibit designer, explained how artists’ styles evolved over 300 years.

In the 17th century a lot of paintings followed a religious theme and many masters studied in Italy and followed those ideas of beauty and landscape.

Then in the 18th century, paintings evolved to romantic images and historical images of the French Revolution, he said.

“The shock of the French Revolution was felt in all areas,” Zafran said.

One 18th century painting by Hubert Robert was done while he was jailed. During the time, prisoners were locked in quarters where they could continue to work. His painting of poet Jean-Antoine Roucher shows him preparing for his prison transfer. Roucher was eventually executed but Robert was freed, he said.

In the 19th century French painters embraced a variety of styles, including Romanticism, pastoral and realistic landscapes, the academic style and the well-known Impressionist paintings.

One painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir shows artist Claude Monet painting a garden scene. The two artists were sharing a home in 1873 when the painting was done, Zafran said.

At the time many artists were poor and painted over original canvases. An X-ray of that painting showed that Renoir had painted over a portrait of his wife to create the garden scene, Zafran said.

The exhibit will be in Springfield through April 29. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. through 5 p.m. Sunday in the museum at 21 Edwards St.

The fee is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 to 17. Children under 12 are free.

Source : http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/12/damour_museum_in_springfield_o.html

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