The first exhibition devoted solely to portraits of the Neo-Impressionist movement will open June 14, 2014, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road. It is the only U.S. venue for the exhibition.
“Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904” will feature more than 30 paintings and 20 works on paper by artists including Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross, Maximilien Luce, and Vincent van Gogh. “Face to Face” will be on view in the Allen Whitehill Clowes Gallery through Sept. 7, 2014.
Rooted in recent discoveries in optics and perception, Neo-Impressionism was developed in late 19th-century Paris by French painter Georges Seurat. While his use of brilliant color and pointillist brushwork is largely associated with landscapes, seascapes, and scenes of modern life, the approach also produced arresting portraits of unusual beauty and perception. “Face to Face” represents the first major museum exhibition to examine this significant facet of the Neo-Impressionist movement.
“Perhaps because Neo-Impressionism is so linked to the pursuit of natural light and brilliant color, the primary vehicles for analyzing the technique have been landscapes and other outdoor scenes,” said Ellen W. Lee, the Wood-Pulliam senior curator at the IMA and co-organizer of the exhibition. “This exhibition reveals the Neo-Impressionists’ ability to invest psychological intensity and vivid expression into that most natural of subjects — the human face.”
The exhibition features 15 painters from France, Belgium, and The Netherlands. The earliest followers of Seurat, artists such as Paul Signac, Lucien Pissarro, and Albert Dubois-Pillet, are represented. The exhibition also will introduce under-recognized figures such as Henri Delavallée and Achille Laugé to American audiences.
Highlights of the exhibition include:
• Albert Dubois-Pillet, Mlle. B.; a striking portrait of a seated woman, recognized through research for this exhibition as the earliest Neo-Impressionist portrait
• Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1887; with its arresting contrast of complementary colors, this work is the best Neo-Impressionist example of the artist’s remarkable self-portraits.
• Henri-Edmond Cross, Madame Hector France; a life-size portrait and the first Neo-Impressionist painting by one of Seurat’s most important followers.
• Théo van Rysselberghe, a trio of full-length portraits of the three sisters of the Sèthe family, painted by Belgium’s most distinguished Neo-Impressionist portraitist.
“The Indianapolis Museum of Art has the finest Neo-Impressionist collection in America,” said Charles L. Venable, the Melvin & Bren Simon director and CEO, “and we are proud to organize ‘Face to Face’ and to present it in Brussels and Indianapolis. This exhibition and its catalogue will be both a visual delight and a scholarly milestone.”
Neo-Impressionism was developed decades after photography made realistic images widely available. While physical resemblance remained an important aspect of portraiture, artists of the era were also free to emphasize individual technique, their pursuit of psychological or spiritual identity, and their own emotional connection with their subjects. These subjects were often drawn from the circles of the artists’ families and friends, and their portraits record in vivid color some of the era’s most intriguing and influential personalities. Exquisite drawings also play a prominent role in the exhibition, demonstrating the expressive potential of black and white pencil and crayon portraits.
Drawn from museums such as the Musée d’Orsay, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, libraries, and private collections throughout Europe and the United States, the exhibition presents a variety of engaging images, offering fresh insight into the aesthetics and character of one of the era’s most fascinating chapters.
For more information, call 923-1331 or visit www.imamuseum.org.