Steamboat Springs Passport To Paris is the aptly named show presently at the Denver Art Museum. You would truly have to travel far and wide to see the artwork that the museum has gathered under one roof in three distinct exhibitions. Children who are studying art and history also will appreciate this eye-opening presentation.
You may want to start your viewing on level two of the Hamilton building in the Anschutz Gallery with the “The Court To Café: Three Centuries of French Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum.” This part of the exhibition projects from Louis the 14th to 20th century art. This is the first time all of these pieces have been on tour as a group.
In the beginning, we are greeted with religious art such as Crucifixion by Poussin. Interspersed among the artwork are intricately carved chairs, commodes, sedans and carriages.
The paintings personify the various periods in Europe, including the period of myths, the age of reason and the period of grandeur that led to the French Revolution. Vigee Le Brun’s renown portraits of the über-rich are dazzling.
We travel to Hubert Robert’s painting of Roucher In Prison (think French Revolution) and advance to art inspired by middle class life, the Napoleonic era and on to Manet and Rousseau. As if understanding that by this time our feet need a rest, the curators have installed an alcove with seats where we can view some of the first movies by the Lumière brothers made in the 19th century.
Back in the gallery the collection finishes with a lavishness of canvases by Cezanne, Degas, Sisley, Courbet, Boudin, Tissot, Pissarro and Bonnard. One leaves this part of the exhibition understanding how the major shifts in French politics were portrayed in art and contributed to France becoming the art center of Western culture.
As one exits the Anschutz gallery, a few steps away is another segment of Passport To Paris, “Drawing Room: An Intimate Look at French Drawings from the Esmond Bradley Martin Collection, 39 works-on-paper.”
We have a sense of intimacy with the artist as we view some informal etchings on menus. There are more formal drawings by Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaugin, Daumier and others. Magnifying glasses are provided so that those who want to study Picasso’s pen and dark brown ink on cream paper or Monet’s use of graphite on ivory Bristol board may do so.
The third exhibit located in the Gallagher Family Gallery on level one of the Hamilton Building is titled “Nature as Muse: Impressionist Landscapes.” This section displays the remarkable art of 19th century impressionist artists from Frederic C. Hamilton’s private collection, which he has bequeathed to the museum, and the Denver Art Museum’s own holdings.
Many of the impressionist artists had been trained in the tradition of the old masters who only used nature as a backdrop to historical and biblical themes and featured muted colors and studied technics. The impressionist artists, who mostly lived in Paris, had new ideas and did their landscape pieces around Paris employing vivid colors, using free brush technics, as well as dots and dashes of contrasting colors. They featured nature and people free of religion. These artists capture the light dispersing in air, the glittering of mother of pearl, the massiveness of snow with its glimmering of blue.
Here we see the uplifting works by Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne, Corot, Dupré, Courbet, Sisley, Renoir, Pissarro, Boudin and the American impressionists William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman and William Lamb Picknell.
The exhibitions have quotes by the artists penned intermittently on the walls. Perhaps, the painter, Claude Monet (1840-1926), expresses best how this show should be viewed: “Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”
Passport To Paris is on view at the Denver Art Museum through Feb. 9. Tickets can be purchased by calling 720-913-0130 or visiting www.denverartmuseum.org. An adult ticket including audio tour is $12 for members and $22 for nonmembers.