The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago
Some of the most celebrated and iconic works of the great Impressionist painters were at the Kimbell Art Museum during the summer and fall of 1998. The loan of about 90 paintings from Chicago’s world-renowned Impressionist collection was possible because of an ambitious reinstallation and expansion project at the Art Institute that included extensive renovation of the galleries and the construction of a new Modern Wing designed by Renzo Piano—the architect chosen by the Kimbell to design its own second building. The Art Institute’s Impressionist collection had never before left Chicago in such a large group, and it was exclusively at the Kimbell.
The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago was a feast for the eyes more sumptuous than even the great Barnes Collection exhibition, seen at the Kimbell in 1994. It featured masterpieces of painting by the world’s most beloved artists, including Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec—a succession of geniuses who, through a miracle of history, worked largely in the same country and within the span of a single lifetime. They were painters of modern life who created a more complete and delightful picture of the world in which they lived than any artists before them or since. Carried forward by the so-called “Post-Impressionists”—represented in the exhibition by masterpieces by Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin—the Impressionist movement fostered breathtakingly original pictorial idioms that ushered in the progressive art of the 20th century.
The exhibition brought to Fort Worth works that have come to define the Impressionist achievement—paintings that will be familiar even to those who have never visited the Art Institute, since they have been so widely disseminated through reproductions. They include Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) by Gustave Caillebotte; 7 Cézannes, including Madame Cézanne in a Yellow Chair (1888–90) and The Bathers (1899/1904); 6 works by Degas, including Yellow Dancers (In the Wings) (1874/76) and The Millinery Shop (1879/86); 7 Gauguins, including Arlésiennes (Mistral) (1888) and The Ancestors of Tehamana (1893); 5 Van Goghs, including Self-Portrait (1887) and The Bedroom (1889); 7 Manets, including The Races at Longchamp (1866) and Woman Reading (1877/80); 26 Monets, including 6 paintings of wheatstacks, 4 of London, and 3 of water lilies; 12 Renoirs, including Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise (1875), Acrobats at the Cirque Fernando (1879), and Two Sisters (On the Terrace) (1881); and 3 Toulouse-Lautrecs, including Moulin de la Galette (1889).
Commented Malcolm Warner, the Kimbell’s acting director: “The Art Institute’s Impressionist collection is truly second to none, and we are honored and excited to be able to show it at the Kimbell. In the beautiful light and noble spaces of Louis Kahn’s galleries, every one of these vital paintings will sing out gloriously. It is a great pleasure to be working with our colleagues at the Art Institute, and we take pride in bringing to the Kimbell an exhibition that any museum in the world would covet.”
Commented James Cuno, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago: “We are thrilled to be collaborating with the Kimbell Art Museum on this exhibition and could not imagine a finer temporary home for these works while their galleries here at the Art Institute are being renovated. The Kimbell is a stunning museum with a first-rate collection, and we know that this exhibition will have a wide and appreciative audience in Fort Worth.”
The Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing opened in 2009 and is devoted primarily to modern and contemporary art. The movement of the modern and contemporary collections into the new building offered the opportunity to reinstall earlier collections—including the Impressionist paintings—in newly renovated galleries. During the renovation, certain collections were moved or put into storage. The temporary relocation of the Impressionist collection created a unique opportunity for the Art Institute’s greatest works to be shown outside its own walls, and the Kimbell was able to seize the moment.
Founded in 1879 as both museum and art school, the Art Institute of Chicago is one of the artistic treasure houses of the world. It has an encyclopedic collection of about 250,000 works of art and is the third largest museum in the United States. The Art Institute’s Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection has grown since the early 20th century, largely through donations from enlightened Chicago collectors. One of the most remarkable was Bertha Honoré Palmer, wife of Chicago retail tycoon Potter Palmer, who collected with an insatiable appetite for art and was advised by the American artist Mary Cassatt. Many of Palmer’s works, including some that will be seen in this exhibition, entered the museum’s collection in 1922. These holdings were further enriched in 1926 by the Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection, given by the Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett.
The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago was organized by the Art Institute of Chicago in collaboration with the Kimbell Art Museum. This exhibition was generously supported by J.P. Morgan.