From 20 February 2019

The Courtauld Collection and Fondation Louis Vuitton / The Collection


The Courtauld Collection and Fondation Louis Vuitton / The Collection

The Courtauld Collection,
A Vision for Impressionism
From February 20th to June 17th 2019
Fondation Louis Vuitton / The Collection :
A Vision for Painting
New Selection of Works
From February 20th to August 26th 2019


Having announced its visitor numbers for 2018 (1,142,731 visitors), the Fondation Louis Vuitton will present the collection of Samuel Courtauld, the English industrialist and patron of the arts, for the first time in more than sixty years, from February 20th to June 17th 2019 in Paris.
In parallel to the presentation of the Courtauld Collection, the rest of the Fondation Louis Vuitton building will be devoted to a new selection of works from its collection, entitled A Vision for Painting, from February 20th to August 26th 2019.
I. The Courtauld Collection.
A Vision for Impressionism:

“The Courtauld Collection: A Vision for Impressionism” brings together some 110 works, including 60 paintings and graphic pieces, which are mainly conserved in the Courtauld Gallery or in different international public and private collections. It will enable the French public to discover some of the greatest French paintings from the end of the 19th century and from the very beginning of the 20th century in Paris, sixty years after their first presentation in 1955 at the Musée de l’Orangerie. These works include Un Bar aux Folies Bergère (1882) by Manet, La Jeune Femme se poudrant by Seurat (1889-90), Les Joueurs de cartes by Cézanne (1892-96), Autoportrait à l’oreille bandée by Van Gogh (1889), Nevermore by Gauguin (1897), as well as a set of ten watercolours by  J.M.W. Turner which belonged to Samuel Courtauld’s brother, Sir Stephen Courtauld.

Samuel Courtauld’s links with France determined the spirit and motivations of his collection. His family, who originally came from the Île d’Oléron, emigrated to London in the late 17th century. Having been silversmiths, his ancestors created a textile business in 1794 which became one of the largest in the world at the very beginning of the 20th century following the invention of viscose, a revolutionary synthetic fibre. Samuel Courtauld became the company’s president in 1921, and would remain at its head until 1945. As a passionate Francophile, he regularly spent time in Paris, often purchasing works of art from French dealers, advised, amongst others, by the art historian and dealer Percy Moore Turner.

His collection – built up in less than ten years between 1923 and 1929 in conjunction with his wife Elizabeth – was first shown in their neoclassical residence Home House, built by the architect Robert Adam in 1773-1777, and located in Portman Square in Central London. The Courtauld’s social circle included people at the intersections between art, music, literature, economy and members of the Bloomsbury Group such as John Maynard Keynes and Roger Fry, the art historian, painter and critic, one of the first promoters of impressionism. The couple’s social engagements also took the form, for Elizabeth, of determined support for classical music by means of the Courtauld-Sargent Concerts which took place in the Queen’s Hall.

Samuel Courtauld played a fundamental role in the recognition of Cézanne in the United Kingdom, by building up one of the greatest collections of the painter’s work, including Montagne Sainte-Victoire au grand pin and one of the five versions of the Joueurs de cartes. Another strong point of the collection was the work of Seurat, with a significant collection of fourteen pieces, including La Jeune Femme se poudrant.

On the basis of a “humanist’ conception of art, the Courtaulds developed a philanthropic approach and the will to share their collection as widely as possible. Their generosity is apparent in their collection which soon became accessible to the public, and in the Courtauld Fund, specially intended for national institutions. The National Gallery was therefore able to acquire the famous painting Une baignade, Asnières by Seurat – which now cannot be moved –, La Gare SaintLazare by Monet, Champ de blé, avec cyprès by Cézanne, Café-Concert by Manet, La Yole by Renoir, Le Chenal de Gravelines by Seurat.

In 1931, Samuel Courtauld’s desire to give the public access to the history of art and to the works led him to create the Courtauld Institute, housed in the family residence of Home House. He added seventy-four pieces, or half of his collection (paintings, drawings, prints), which were freely accessible to the students. The remainder of the collection, as well as several works which were acquired later on, was bequeathed to the Courtauld Institute upon his death. 

The Institute’s great originality is the combination of the collection with research and teaching which, alongside the history of art, includes techniques for the conservation and restoration of work. This cultural institution has achieved and sustained an international reputation. It boasts exceptional documentation resources – in architecture especially – and remarkable archives. In 1989, the Courtauld Gallery moved from Home House to its current location, Somerset House, built by William Chambers between 1776 and 1796, which was the former London headquarters of exhibitions by the Royal Academy of Art.

The temporary closure of the Courtauld Gallery for renovations, from September 2018, has made this exhibition possible. Over the course of several years, the operation, known as Courtauld Connects, will involve the transformation of the Courtauld Gallery and Institute of Art, and namely the restoration of the Great Room, built by Sir William Chambers between 1776 and 1779 for the annual exhibitions organised by the Royal Academy of Arts until 1836, which has hosted exhibitions by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Constable, and Turner.

The exhibition of the Courtauld Collection embodies the Fondation Vuitton’s aim to showcase the role of emblematic collectors from the history of art, following on from previous exhibitions organised by the Fondation which have brought together great works of Modernism, collected by prestigious public institutions:  “Les Clefs d’une passion(2014-2015), “Être Moderne : Le MoMA à Paris (2017-2018) and by inspired collectors: “Icônes de l’art moderne. La Collection Chtchoukine (2016-2017).
The visitor’s route through the exhibition in the galleries 1, 2 and 3 was developed on the one hand based on exceptional collections of the two main figures, Cézanne and Seurat, and on the other hand, on major works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Modigliani.
Room 1
Arranged in chronological order, starting in the 1860s, the exhibition begins with Don Quichotte et Sancho Pança by Daumier. This is followed by several works by Manet, including the famous Un Bar aux Folies-Bergère, a version of Déjeuner sur l’herbe and Coin de café-concert.
• Room 2
The room brings together two sections, one based on landscapes, with paintings by Monet, including  La Gare Saint-Lazare, Antibes, Effet d’automne à Argenteuil, La Yole. The other section focuses on the figure, with La Loge and le Portrait d’Ambroise Vollard by Renoir; Après le bain by Degas.
• Room 3
This room is dedicated to a collection of fourteen works by Seurat, organised around La Jeune Femme se poudrant. There are a number of little oil paintings on board by Seurat, including  Le Pêcheur à la ligne, Homme peignant une barque, Chevaux dans l’eau.
• Room 4
Two pieces by Toulouse-Lautrec, Jane Avril à l’entrée du Moulin Rouge and En cabinet particulier (Au Rat mort) feature alongside a display of works on paper, with drawings by Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse and Picasso.
• Room 5
There follows a series of ten paintings and three drawings by Cézanne, including a version of Joueurs de cartes and La Montagne Sainte-Victoire au grand pin, Nature morte à l’Amour en plâtre and Lac d’Annecy.
• Room 6
Next, the Van Gogh collection, including Autoportrait à l’oreille bandée, Pêchers en fleurs, as well as Champ de blé avec cyprès, which is currently the property of the National Gallery. This is shown together with Gauguin, with a series of four paintings including the famous Meules, Nevermore and Te Rerioa, as well as a sculpture, Portrait de Mette, and eight wood engravings from the Noa-Noa series. Finally, Nu féminin by Modigliani.
• Room 7
Ten watercolours by J. M. W. Turner are on display from the collection of Samuel’s brother, Sir Stephen Courtauld.
The exhibition ends with a documentary section and a film which retraces the history of the family, the business, the collection, and of the Courtauld’s philanthropic activities. It includes documents, correspondence and archives on the Courtauld Institute which bear witness to exchanges with critics, dealers and art historians.

II. Fondation Louis Vuitton / The Collection:
A Vision for Painting
A New Selection of Works

On the upper three floors and the terrace of the Fondation Louis Vuitton is a display of a new selection of 70 works from the collection (by 23 international artists), from the 1960s to the present day. The theme is painting. This takes many forms: figurative or abstract, expressive or distanced. Relief pieces are contrasted with each other. Rooms devoted to Joan Mitchell, Alex Katz, Gerhard Richter, Ettore Spalletti, Yayoi Kusama and Jesús Rafael Soto alternate with thematic collections on abstraction, space and colour. The hanging shows the ways in which painting never ceases to reinvent itself and transgress its own rules, drawing on current techniques for reproduction.
Since its inauguration in 2014, the Fondation has regularly presented a choice of works from the Collection. The first hangings were designed according to the themes of the collection: Contemplation, Expressionis, Popism, and Music/Sound (2014-2016). Exhibitions have subsequently been shown in the context of specific events, dedicated to China (2016) and Africa (2017). Finally, the collection has been approached from a thematic angle, questioning the place of Mankind in the living world, in the exhibition “Au diapason du monde” (2018).
Visitor’s route for the exhibition:
Gallery 4 (level 0):
Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) and Carl Andre (born 1935)
The exhibition opens with a major collection of nine paintings by Joan Mitchell, painted between 1976 to 1989, which have never been exhibited before, and which are part of the tradition of abstract expressionism with their ample gestures, imposing formats, and pure colours. This lyricism conveys an internalised vision of landscapes and of nature.
A vast sculpture by Carl Andre shares the same space, its modular rigidity contrasting with Mitchell’s profusion.
Galleries 5 and 6 (level 1):  

Painting Differently:
Mark Bradford (born 1961), Daniel Buren (born 1938), Bernard Frize (born 1954), Wade Guyton (born 1972), Raymond Hains (1926-2005), Nick Mauss (born 1980), François Morellet (1926-2016), Albert Oehlen (born 1954), Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005), Pierre Soulages (born 1919), Niele Toroni (born 1937), Christopher Wool (born 1955), and Bas Jan Ader (1942-1975), Robert Breer (1926-2011) and Joseph Kosuth (born 1945),
Artists constantly renew their ways of painting. They free themselves from the paintbrush or the canvas as a medium, using industrial techniques or appropriating elements of daily life. Abstraction generates new ways of seeing space and light.
In Gallery 5, at the entrance, Jesús Rafael Soto combines regular lines and visual vibrations. Daniel Buren transforms the space with canvases of striped awnings partially covered with paint. A long monochromatic “outrenoir” (ultrablack) by Pierre Soulages captures the light. Raymond Hains gives a pictorial dimension to advertising billboards. Mark Bradford abrades found paper to draw passages from the American Constitution. Christopher Wool serigraphs the image of his own paintings by combining abstraction and industrial lettering. Wade Guyton “paints” on a canvas with an industrial printer, retaining the printing accidents. Albert Oehlen reproduces by hand a drawing made thanks to one of the first pieces of graphical composition software. A white reflective dome by Robert Breer moves randomly throughout the room, multiplying the points of view on the paintings.
In Gallery 6, Niele Toroni lends the space a new density and luminosity by means of regular paintbrush marks. Bernard Frize paints according to pre-established rules of composition. Nick Mauss gives a new dimension to his drawings by playing with the medium and the reflections. François Morellet randomly superposes surfaces, lines and neon lights. Joseph Kosuth imagines a neon light which speaks the colours composing it, in a piece that is both visual and conceptual.
Gallery 7 (level 1):
Ettore Spalletti (born 1940)
Five pieces with luminous surfaces, made up of a succession of pictorial layers, in impasto, call to mind the painting of the Italian Renaissance and the atmosphere of the Italian region of Abruzzo, where the artist lives.
Gallery 9 (level 2):
Alex Katz (born 1927) and Gerhard Richter (born 1932)
In the first part of the gallery, Alex Katz shares an Eden-like vision of nature and people, by means of strong colour patches in simple shapes. In the second half, Gerhard Richter’s works oscillate between abstraction and an evocation of nature.
Gallery 10 (level 2):
Colour and Light:
Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015), Dan Flavin (1933-1996), Gerhard Richter (born 1932)
Gallery 10 brings together works of radical abstraction, both geometric and modular, which celebrate light, space and colour. Ellsworth Kelly erects a triangle in the space, miday between painting and sculpture. Dan Flavin combines standard fluorescent tubes in compositions of introverted light. Gerhard Richter arbitrarily divides shades from one of his previous paintings over 4900 squares, revisiting his stained-glass window for the cathedral in Cologne.
Gallery 11 (level 2):
Yayoi Kusama (born 1929)
Infinity Mirror Room (Phalli’s Field) 1965/2013, wooden panels, mirrors, fabric, 260 x 455 x 455 cm
Infinity Mirror Room is one of Yayoi Kusama’s very first environments. The spectator, immersed in this psychedelic landscape of organic forms of which he becomes a part, is in an hypnotic universe, a painting in space which stretches out to infinity thanks to a play of mirrors.
West Terrace (level 2):
Jesús Rafael Soto (1923-2005)
Pénétrable BBL bleu, 1999, paint on aluminium, PVC threads, 366,5 x 600 x 470,5 cm
Through the repetition of shapes and colours, Soto creates an optical environment which heightens the vibratory and dynamic sensations.
By presenting these two simultaneous exhibitions, the Fondation Louis Vuitton reiterates its will to anchor its commitment to current creation in an historical perspective.

(Pubished : 17 January 2019)