Last Wednesday I finally found time to go to Frankfurt and visit the hyped exhibition "Esprit Montmartre" at the Schirn Kunsthalle.
A notorious district in Paris’s 18th arrondissement held special appeal
for a number of the most well-known modern artists: Montmartre. “The
quarter resembles a huge studio,” a contemporary critic wrote in the
1890s about the hill on what was then the city’s outskirts. Having
preserved its original rural flair, it represented a counter-world to
the mundane Paris of the “belle époque.” The SCHIRN exhibition has set
out to convey a sense of the special Montmartre atmosphere. More than
two hundred works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo
Picasso, Suzanne Valadon, Edgar Degas and others will lure visitors into
the milieu of the Parisian “bohème” around the turn of the century.
Historical photographs and numerous posters and prints will shed light
on further facets of one of the most colorful chapters in the history of
art, but also one with which countless clichés are associated: the
frivolous can-can girls in the Moulin Rouge, sumptuous coffeehouse
scenes, or the penniless artist who indulges in alcohol, sleeps until
noon and turns night into day. Yet to reduce Montmartre to these
familiar images means to overlook the realism with which the artists
recorded everyday life there. They were people who had consciously
chosen to dissociate themselves outwardly from the bourgeoisie by
embarking on lives as poor bohemians on the fringe of society. Their
striking portraits of outsiders, thieves, beggars, street artists,
prostitutes and drinkers mirrored their new perception of themselves.
The exhibition will investigate the sociological circumstances of the
period in question and its new definition of the role of the artist.
I certainly wasn´t disappointed by the huge collection of well-known and lesser known paintings, drawings, prints and photos. I love everything that is labeled Paris and Boheme so I didn´t need much to be won over.
As you can imagine with a popular and agreeable subject like this, the exhibition was very busy and numerous guided groups made it sometimes difficult to get closer to the exhibits (especially all the small scale sketches of Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso).
I especially enjoyed discovering some new to me artists like for example Maurice Utrillo´s mother Suzanne Valadon and her fascinating biography.
Other drawings made me laugh out loud (please excuse that I´m posting pornography now) - the expression of that cat!
The exhibition is still on until the 1st June and as many of the exhibits are from private collections it´s a rare chance to see them on display.
All in all a beautiful exhibition well worth going to, but:
- the staff at Schirn Kunsthalle is a real pain in the arse - not once I have visited without being patronised about something (Ughhh, that bag is too big! Oooh, you need an international student card! Hmm, not sure how to deal with this voucher)
Art is supposed to be joyful! You grumpy buggers are responsible that people think they dislike art because they get treated with such an attitude!
- I found the written background explanations easy understandable and fitting but somehow the exhibition lacked something original and unique for me. Why those works, those artists, this hanging?
The suspission of it being a pretty crowd-pleaser lacking substance arose a bit in me.
- I always, always end up paying a fortune for the exhibition catalogue as I want to carry everything I have seen home and never ever find my favourite works on postcards, never! Sometimes I wish my taste could be mainstream :-)