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Vive La Parisienne

Women through the eyes of the Impressionists

Sat 30 September 2006, 11.00amSun 10 December 2006, 5.00pm

Organised by The Bowes Museum and Compton Verney, as part of the Museum Network Partnership

Vive la Parisienne focuses on the portrayal of women in Parisian life in the late nineteenth century, at a time when the Impressionist movement was capturing the emerging modern world with spontaneity and life. Featuring works by artists including Renoir, Degas, Toulouse- Lautrec, Bonnard and Pissarro, the exhibition focuses on how these leading exponents of Impressionism were concerned with life in the city centre and the portrayal of the Parisienne.

Many of the Impressionist painters took their lead from Manet, whose loose brushwork, rather than offering a precise rendering of the sitter, summarises a gesture, a glance, or a way of holding the head, and results in a highly individual representation. Manet’s closest ally was Degas, who delineated the contours of the human form in such a way as to capture movement and informality, as though the sitter was completely unaware of his observations. Vive la Parisienne explores how women and their activities formed a large part of the Impressionist subject matter and reveals the wide spectrum of approaches to this subject at that time.

The exhibition is arranged thematically and compares the settings for these paintings and their sitters, examining the role of the modern woman in Paris, from chorus girls and artists’ models, to the domestic realm and polite society of the middle and upper classes. Works on display include Degas’ Chanteuse de Café-Concert (c.1878), Pissarro’s Mme Pissarro Sewing Beside a Window (1878), Helleu’s Portrait (c.1887), Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Passagère du 54 (1895-6), Renoir’s Misia Sert (1904), and Cassatt’s Portrait of a Woman (date unknown).

The exhibition includes twenty five works, loaned from the British Museum; Bowes Museum; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Southampton City Art Gallery; Cheltenham Art Gallery; The Fitzwilliam Museum; The National Gallery; New Art Gallery Wallsall; Ashmolean Museum, and the Courtauld Institute.

In addition, a ceramic by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini, depicting Paul Helleu painting a female sitter, has been generously lent from a private collection. Vive la Parisenne has been organised in collaboration with the Bowes Museum, County Durham.