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Today is May 9, 2021

Van Gough, Monet and Degas: celebrating the Western canon

By Steven Ward

Van Gough, Monet and Degas: celebrating the Western canon

Édouard Manet (1832–1883), On the Beach, Boulogne-sur-Mer, 1868. Oil on canvas. Photo: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Mississippians have a rare opportunity this year to see iconic paintings and sculptures created by seminal French artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) in Jackson is hosting Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The exhibit showcases major schools of French art including Romanticism, Impressionism and Cubism spanning 150 years. This exhibition features artwork from modern French masters that are well known in the United States and the world, including Edgar Degas, Eugène Delacroix, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau and Vincent van Gogh.

The pieces all come from Paul and Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon, among the most philanthropic art collecting couples of the last century. The Mellons’ personal interests, commitment to modernism and prescient collection strategies are evident in the grouping.

This exhibition was organized by the Virginia Fine Arts Museum. Its presentation in Jackson is sponsored by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.

“This is the first exhibition in a long time of such renowned French and Dutch artists in Mississippi. Many pieces from the collection have never been on view in the state previously,” said Betsy Bradley, director of the Mississippi Museum of Art.

The collection features more than 74 paintings and sculptures — both monumental and intimately scaled.

“This is the first traveling exhibition of the Mellon Collection since Mrs. Mellon’s bequest to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2014,” said Roger Ward, the museum’s deputy director of art and programs.

Bradley said visitors can expect a trip to France through time and the eyes of some of the most important artists in history.

“Since travel continues to be limited, MMA is excited to transport visitors to Paris and the French countryside with this exhibition. Through equestrian paintings, views of Parish urban cityscapes and landscapes of the French countryside, visitors will have a sense of France in the 19th and 20th centuries, Bradley said.

Bradley’s favorite piece in the exhibit is by Monet.

“My favorite piece in the collection is Monet’s Field of Poppies, one of the world’s most famous paintings. The vibrant colors entice you to jump right in and stroll through the field. You can really imagine yourself enjoying the beautiful weather,” Bradley said.

Entrance to the museum is free but the admission to the exhibit is $15 per person, $13 for advance purchase, $13 for seniors and groups of 10 or more and $10 for college students with school ID. The exhibit is free for museum members, children 5 and under and K-12 students on Tuesdays and Thursdays thanks to Field Co-operative Associations, Inc. and BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi.

The museum recently announced its plans to reopen after temporarily closing due to COVID-19. The MMA is slated to open in stages beginning July 1 with an initial members-only period and then is scheduled to open to the general public on July 8. The Van Gogh exhibition has been extended through Jan. 10, 2021. First responders and essential workers will be allowed free admission throughout the exhibit. Bradley said the health of museum visitors will remain a top priority. 


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