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Exhibitions

Monet: The Late Years

Michelangelo’s First Painting: The Torment of Saint Anthony

Nicolas Poussin's Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter)

Current Installations

About the Collection


Events

Monet: The Late Years
June 16 – September 15, 2019

Internationallyacclaimed exhibition reveals the radical evolution of Monet’s final decade Monet: The Late Years is the first museum exhibition in more than 20 years dedicated to the final phase of Monet’s career. Through approximately 50 paintings, the exhibition traces the evolution of Monet’s practice from 1914, when he embarked on a reinvention of his painting style that led to increasingly bold and abstract works, up to his death in 1926. The Kimbell’s deputy director, George T. M. Shackelford—one of the foremost experts on 19th-century French art—is the curator of the exhibition, which brings international loans from major public and private collections in Europe, the United States and Asia. Monet: The Late Years is on view at the Kimbell Art Museum from June 16 through September 15, 2019, in the Renzo Piano Pavilion. “Radiant inspiration to the very end”—Karen Wilkin, Wall Street Journal, 2019

Monet:The Late Years includes more than 20 examples of the artist’s beloved water-lily paintings. The exhibition also showcases many other extraordinary and unfamiliar works from his final years, several of which will be seen for the first time in the United States. A surprising range of paintings, from traditional pictures to canvases more than six feet high to a monumental work measuring 14 feet wide, demonstrating Monet’s continued vitality and variety as a painter. It redefines Monet as one of the most original artists of the modern age.“In this glorious selection of paintings, we see bold methods of paint application, surprising harmonies or clashes of color and strikingscale. Our visitors will encounter the radical nature of the painter’s late works,”commented Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum. “I’m thrilled with the reception the show received in San Francisco—achieving internationaland national media acclaim—and I’m looking forwardto seeing it here, bathed in the natural light of the Kimbell’s galleries.”In 2016 and 2017, the Kimbell Art Museum and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco presented Monet: The Early Years, an exhibition of more than 50 paintings that surveyed the artist’s work from a picture exhibited in 1858—when he was 17 years old—to a group of paintings from the summer of 1872—completed when he was still just 31. Monet: The Late Years returns to take up the story of Monet’s art at the very end of his career—after the heady days of the explosion of Impressionism in the 1870s; after his exultant mastery of his medium in the 1880s and his recognition as chief of the Impressionist landscape painters; after the momentous decision, in the 1890s, to work in series; and after the first decade of the 20th century, which saw the debut of his views of the Thames in London in 1904 and his triumph with the Water Lilies exhibition of 1909. —though it opens with a prologue of works painted at the very end of the 1890s, a selection of the classic water-lily paintings of 1904–7 and the two views of his garden painted around 1913—begins in earnest with Monet’s return to painting in the late spring of 1914, tracing his career until his death in 1926. “It is astonishing to see the change in Monet’s works when he returned to painting in 1914,” said Shackelford. “I have been excited to see the public’s reaction to these paintings, which are still unfamiliarto most people. And bringing things together that may not have been seen with each other since they left Monet’s studio—that is the thrill of an exhibition like this one.” “A body of work as radical in form as it was in emotion”Charles Desmarais, San Francisco Chronicle 2019

The spring of 1914 was a turning point for the artist. On April 30, Monet wrote to his friend Gustave Geffroy, an art critic as well as a novelist, that he was “doing wonderfully and . . . obsessed by the desire to paint; I’ve been prevented from doing so during the last, very beautiful, days, but I should have got myself back to work yesterday, everything was ready for me, and then voilà, time wasted, false start.” A month later, Monet was back to painting in earnest, telling the critic Félix Fénéon that he was “working at full speed, and no matter what the weather, I paint.” He went on to say that he was beginning “a huge labor, I am passionate about it.”The work Monet began in 1914 was exhausting. As he wrote to his dealer Durand-Ruel, “you know that when I set myself to something, I set myself to it seriously, so much so that waking up at 4 o’clock in the morning, I labor all day and, come nightfall, I collapse with fatigue.”The artist was anxious to share his new work with his friends. “It would be agreat pleasure to see you,” he told Geffroy, “and also to show you the beginnings of the great work that I have begun, for you know that for the last two months I have been working nonstop.”The work was also revolutionary, a transformation that amounted to a break with the past and a new beginning. He had decided to accomplish, on a huge scale, the great work of his old age, the Grandes Décorations, installed in the Orangerie of the Tuileries Gardens after his death. Deciding to return to ideas he had first explored at the end of the 1890s, he had come to the decision to begin his great project, the series of huge paintings, the most exhaustive he had ever attempted, on the theme of his water-lily pond. This work would absorb him from the time he was 73onwards. And with the new project came a new way of working, a shift in the scale of every component of his art making. Among the works in Monet: The Late Years are some of the studies, each more than six feet tall, that Monet painted beside the water-lilypond to record the effects that he saw there, so that he could bring them back to his studio for imaginative recombination and extension. The Saint Louis Art Museum has lent one of the most beautiful of the large panels that were not, in the end, selectedfor the Orangerie, a stunning Water Lilies (Agapanthus) some 14 feet in width. Going large, he found it difficult to scale his art back again, yet he did so brilliantly, transforming his way of painting at the same time to overcome the barriers placed in his way by his fading vision. Among the works that he undertook after 1918 are several series of views of the garden above the water line. In Monet: The Late Years, more of these works will be gathered together than ever before. These will include seven canvases depicting the Japanese bridge he had built over the narrowest spot in thepond and two showing the allée of rose arches leading up to his house. The Kimbell’s own Weeping Willowwill be joined by four others, three from the Musée Marmottan Monetand one from the Columbus Museum of Art. Finally, the exhibition will close with four views of the artist’s house, seen from his garden, the architectural and natural forms flowing together in a mêlée of brushstrokes, each more colorful than the next.As he entered his 80s in 1920, the “impressive yet fragile deity of the Seine,” as one visitor called him, had become something of a giant, even as his body and his physical capacities had steadily diminished.Monet saw his last works, however radical they might have become, as a continuation—we might now say a culmination—of a lifetime of studying nature. The attitude towards the natural world that gave the works of his youth their magic was, in the artist’s late years, the same. As the artist himself said,“My sensitivity, far from diminishing, has been sharpened by age, which holds no fears for me so long as unbroken communication with the outside world continues to fuel my curiosity, so long as my hand remains a ready and faithful interpreter of my perception.”

Monet: The Late Years was curated by George T. M. Shackelford, deputy director of the Kimbell Art Museum.It is organized by the Kimbell Art Museum and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with the exceptional support of the Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris.The exhibition is supported byan indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanitiesand a grant from the Leo Potishman Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, Trustee. Promotional support is provided by American Airlines, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and NBC5. The acquisition of an antique frame for the Kimbell Art Museum’s Weeping Willow was made possible bya grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Proje

Michelangelo’s First Painting: The Torment of Saint Anthony
Currently On View

Beginning September 26, 2009, Michelangelo’s first known painting, The Torment of Saint Anthony, will be on view among the permanent collection of the Kimbell Art Museum. The Kimbell Art Museum acquired the painting in May 2009. The work is currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, through September 7, 2009. It will be featured in a focus exhibition including a facsimile of the Schongauer engraving on which it is based and the recent technical examinations and scholarly analyses that identify it as the painting described by Michelangelo’s biographers.

Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum, commented, “I am delighted with the reception that The Torment of Saint Anthony received in New York and look forward to welcoming Michelangelo’s painting to its new home at the Kimbell Art Museum. I can hardly wait to see the painting hanging in the galleries of Louis Kahn’s landmark building.”

This work was executed in oil and tempera on a wooden panel in 1487–88, when the artist was only 12 to 13 years old. It is the first painting by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) to enter an American collection, and one of only four known easel paintings generally believed to come from his hand. The others are the Doni Tondo in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and two unfinished paintings in London’s National Gallery, The Manchester Madonna and The Entombment.

The painting was offered at Sotheby’s in 2008 as “workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio.” The Sotheby’s entry noted that Everett Fahy, curator emeritus of European paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, who had known the work since 1960, believed it to be by Michelangelo. Purchased by Adam Williams Fine Art, New York, the panel was brought to the Metropolitan, where it underwent conservation and technical research.

The recent cleaning of Michelangelo’s Torment of Saint Anthony at the Metropolitan has revealed the quality of the small panel. Michael Gallagher, conservator in charge of paintings conservation, removed the layers of yellowed varnish and clumsy, discolored overpaint that obscured the artist’s distinctive palette and compromised the illusion of depth and sculptural form. The technical study accompanying the cleaning has provided evidence of artist’s changes, signifying that the painting is an original work of art and not a copy after another painting.

Giorgio Vasari, in his Lives of the Artists (1550, second edition 1568), and Ascanio Condivi—Michelangelo’s former student whose information for his biography of the artist (1553) came directly from the master—both recount how the young Michelangelo painted a copy of the engraving Saint Anthony Tormented by Demons by the 15th-century German master Martin Schongauer. Vasari relates that Michelangelo bought fish with bizarrely colorful scales so that he could render the strange forms of the devils. Condivi also wrote that in order to give the demonic creatures veracity, Michelangelo went to the fish market to study the shape and color of the fins, eyes, and other parts of the fish. The spiny, long-snouted demon with brilliantly colored scales (the scales are absent from the engraving) particularly associates the Kimbell panel with these descriptions. The work probably dates from the time Michelangelo was informally associated with Ghirlandaio’s workshop, just before he began his brief apprenticeship with this important master.

The rare subject is found in the life of Saint Anthony the Great, written by Athanasius of Alexandria in the 4th century, which describes how the Egyptian hermit saint levitated into the air and was attacked by demons, whose torments he resisted. According to Condivi, it was the artist Francesco Granacci, Michelangelo’s older friend, who gave him access to some of the prints and drawings in the workshop of Domenico Ghirlandaio. In an effort to try his hand at painting, Michelangelo reportedly took Schongauer’s print and produced a mesmerizing rendition of it on a wooden panel that earned him great repute and fame.

Michelangelo
Born in 1475 near Florence, Michelangelo is universally acknowledged as one of the towering geniuses of the Renaissance. Already by his teenage years, he had proven himself a superlative sculptor and painter. Best known for his mature works such as the ceiling frescoes in the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, he evolved a forceful, muscular style that gripped the imaginations of artists for decades to come. First and foremost, Michelangelo thought himself a sculptor, and many of his works in marble are icons of Western art: his Vatican Pietà, his vigorous David in Florence, and his tragic, unfinished Rondanini Pietà in Milan. As a painter, Michelangelo was equally influential. As The Torment of Saint Anthony proves, he was drawn to painting at an early age, and by the time of his later masterpiece, The Last Judgment, also in the Sistine Chapel, he had presided over a vast revolution in Italian painting.

Nicolas Poussin's Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter)
Ongoing

The Kimbell Art Museum announced today one of the most important acquisitions in its history: French painter Nicolas Poussin's Sacrament of Ordination (Christ Presenting the Keys to Saint Peter). The painting is from Poussin's famous first set of the Seven Sacraments, which has been universally acclaimed, virtually since its creation, as a landmark in the history of art. The series was commissioned by the prominent Roman collector Cassiano dal Pozzo between 1636 and 1642. In 1785, the 4th Duke of Rutland purchased the paintings and brought them to England, after which Sir Joshua Reynolds, president of the Royal Academy of Arts, declared: "I think upon the whole that this must be considered as the greatest work of Poussin, who was certainly one of the greatest Painters that ever lived."

"This is among the most significant old master paintings to have become available in decades," commented Eric M. Lee, the Museum's director. "I'm thrilled about the acquisition. Poussin's harmonious painting, with its frieze of colorfully dressed figures set against a landscape, will beautifully complement the serene Louis Kahn-designed galleries of the Kimbell, and vice-versa—a perfect union of painting and architecture. The classical sense of restraint in this work makes for an interesting contrast to the Poussin already in our collection, the earlier, more sensuous, Venetian-inspired Venus and Adonis."

Cassiano dal Pozzo, who commissioned the Sacrament series, was secretary to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, and is often referred to as the father of modern archaeology. Cassiano immersed himself in the study of natural sciences and the philosophy, customs, and monuments of antiquity, to which end he amassed a "Paper Museum," an encyclopedic collection of drawings and prints that recorded the material evidence of the life and works of the ancients. He met Poussin soon after the artist's arrival in Rome from France, in 1624, and became one of his most important patrons. Eventually he owned (along with his brother) some 50 Poussin paintings. Cassiano's learned interests undoubtedly inspired the unprecedented subject of the sacraments as individual scenes—a theme that explored the core rites of Christian life leading to salvation. Poussin created narratives with an extraordinary attention to historical accuracy, bringing to life rituals of the early Christians and infusing each picture with a profound yet powerful pictorial structure. Cassiano's Sacraments were admired by scores of artists and connoisseurs, including Paul Fréart de Chantelou, for whom Poussin created a second set of Sacraments between 1644 and 1648; these paintings are currently in the collection of the Duke of Sutherland, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

To illustrate the sacrament of ordination—the taking of Holy Orders to become a priest, deacon, or bishop—Poussin depicted the gospel account of Christ giving the keys of heaven and earth to the kneeling apostle Peter, showing the authority vested in him as head of the Roman church: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church...I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:18–19). Poussin charges his magisterial composition with the varied emotional reactions and gestures of each apostle, setting the figures against an airy landscape. Probably among the earliest completed in the series, the painting is in excellent condition.

Sir Robert Walpole, the early 18th-century British prime minister whose extensive art collection was later acquired by Catherine the Great of Russia and would become the nucleus of the Hermitage Museum, attempted to acquire Poussin's Sacraments from the heirs of Cassiano dal Pozzo, but the pope at that time, Benedict XIV, considered them too important to the cultural patrimony of Rome to leave the city and stopped their export. It was in 1785 that James Byres, agent in Rome of Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland, finally succeeded in securing the series, which the Duke had some years earlier expressed a desire to purchase. The Duke consulted Sir Joshua Reynolds, who enthusiastically endorsed the purchase as "a great object of art...perhaps a greater than any we have at present in this nation. Poussin certainly ranks amongst the first of the first rank of Painters, and to have a set of Pictures of such an artist will really and truly enrich the nation." When the paintings arrived in London, Reynolds attended to the cleaning of the paintings and arranged for them to be exhibited with great fanfare at the Royal Academy in 1787 before their installation at the Duke of Rutland's Belvoir Castle, in new frames—ordered by Reynolds himself—which remain on the paintings to this day.

The Dal Pozzo Sacraments were on display at Belvoir Castle for over 200 years and from 2003 until last year on loan to the National Gallery, London. Of the original seven works, the Duke of Rutland retains Confirmation, Eucharist, Extreme Unction, and Marriage. Penance was destroyed in a fire, and Baptism was acquired by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in 1946. The Sacrament of Ordination was offered for sale by the trustees of the Belvoir Estate, and the proceeds will support the renovation and long-term preservation of Belvoir Castle and Estate.

The Kimbell Art Foundation was represented in the negotiation of the painting's purchase by Robert Holden Ltd. and Sotheby's. The Kimbell secured an export license in August. In documents made public, the expert advisor for the British Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest wrote, "Poussin's depictions of these sacred ceremonies represent one of the supreme artistic, intellectual and spiritual achievements in Western art and thought."

Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) occupies a central place in the history of art. Born in France, he spent most of his career in Rome. Esteemed as both a painter-poet and painter-philosopher, Poussin was an artist whose work encompassed the full range of human expression, imaginative, and intellectual. He attracted a number of important patrons, including Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII, who recalled him to France as First Painter in Ordinary to the King, though the artist soon chose to return to Rome. He was admired by Bernini as an incomparable storyteller. Poussin's works range from youthful mythological paintings and sensuous bacchanals to austerely rigorous history paintings and devotional works, from bucolic pastoral landscapes to the epic, pantheistic landscapes of his old age. His paintings provided the foundation for the great French tradition of classical art, in turn nurturing the neoclassicism of the 18th and 19th centuries. Generations of artists, from David to Delacroix to Cézanne and beyond, have drawn inspiration and measured their own achievements in relation to the towering art of Poussin.

Permanent Collection
In its short history of 36 years, the Kimbell Art Museum has come to occupy a distinctive place in the international community of museums. Leaving to older and larger institutions the role of collecting broadly and in depth, the Kimbell has chosen as its primary collecting aspiration the pursuit of quality over quantity. Particularly in its holdings of European painting and sculpture, the Kimbell possesses a core of works that not only epitomize their eras and styles, but also touch individual high points of aesthetic beauty and historical importance.

In the years leading up to the Grand Opening in 1972, members of the Kimbell Art Foundation and the first director, Richard F. Brown, laid out broad parameters for the Museum’s collecting. Over time, the strategy has become more focused. Today the Museum does not collect American art, nor works created after 1950, in order to more effectively complement the offerings of its neighbors, the Amon Carter Museum, which is devoted to American art, and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which focuses on art since World War II.

Visitors to the Kimbell during the inaugural year were greeted by more than 125 new acquisitions, extending back as far as early antiquity and medieval times and as late in history as the early 20th century, as well as a generous representation of British 18th and 19th-century portraits that reflected Kay and Velma Kimbell’s legacy and taste. Goya’s Portrait of the Matador Pedro Romero, executed at the height of the artist’s career as a court painter; Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Bruns’s immensely confident self-portrait at 26 years of age; and Monet’s La Pointe de la Héve at Low Tide, one of the painter’s first large showpieces: these were among the paintings that thousands of Americans encountered for the first time in the natural light of Louis I. Kahn’s barrel-vaulted galleries. Visitors to the smaller non-Western collections encountered works collected according to the highest connoisseurial standards, ranging from a rare Cycladic female figure to important Greek and Roman statuary to Buddhist deities crafted of stone or bronze. In the years directly following the Grand Opening, the Museum added still more masterworks, including Duccio di Buoninsegna’s emotionally expressive panel painting The Raising of Lazarus, and El Greco’s magisterial Portrait of Dr. Francisco de Pisa.

In 1980, several months after the Board of Directors acquired Cézanne’s Man in a Blue Smock in memory of Brown, who had died the previous year, Edmund P. Pillsbury, previously director of the Yale Center for British Art (another Kahn building), was appointed Brown’s successor and initiated a second very active period of acquisitions. Guided by Pillsbury, the Board’s purchase of La Tour’s Cheat with the Ace of Clubs in 1981 set the stage for an inspired pairing when, six years later, Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps entered the collection. Nowadays these two masterpieces—which warn of the dangers of indulgence in wine, women and gambling, while evoking those activities in seductive color and form—often hang in close proximity to Murillo’s Four Figures on a Step, also thought to encode a morality tale. Fra Angelico’s minutely limned The Apostle Saint James the Greater Freeing the Magician Hermogenes, Velázquez’s imposing Don Pedro de Barberana, and Caillebotte’s pivotal On the Pont de l’Europe are among other noted works acquired during Pillsbury’s tenure. These acquisitions were supported partly by selective deaccessioning of works, including all of the Museum’s drawings and prints.

Pillsbury also extended the Museum’s coverage of Impressionist and modern art with paintings by Gauguin, Monet, Miró, Matisse, and Mondrian. Overall, by the end of his directorship in 1998, the collection had been reduced in size but enhanced in quality.

During the tenure of Timothy Potts (1998–2007), the Museum particularly sought out important examples of European sculpture, until then still a relatively small category within the collections. A number of these works are now highlights of the permanent collection, among them Gianlorenzo Bernini’s 1653 presentation model (modello) for the Fountain of the Moor in Piazza Navona, Rome—which the Museum acquired in 2004, shortly after its dramatic rediscovery—and a rare and important portrait bust of a woman, probably Isabella d’Este, c. 1500, attributed to Gian Cristoforo Romano. The Moor is probably the finest surviving terracotta by Bernini’s hand, and the Romano, the finest terracotta female portrait of the period in this country. Other major sculptures to enter the collections during this period represent the art of ancient Greece (Head of an Athlete), Renaissance Italy (Michelozzo, Saint John the Baptist), and Late Gothic Germany. The German work is a Virgin and Child crafted of silver, gilt, and precious stones, and, as such, a rare survivor of the Reformation.

In 2006 a rare terracotta relief by the early Renaissance master Donatello entered the permanent collections. The Borromeo Madonna, dating to about 1450, is a tender depiction of one of the most popular subjects of the Renaissance, and one that Donatello did more than any other artist to develop—the Madonna and Child. Although long known to scholars, the relief had been hidden beneath as many as ten layers of stucco and paint applied over the last 500 years, obscuring its beauty and history. A significant cleaning allowed the attribution to Donatello to be made. The Borromeo Madonna forms a new historical starting point and context for such other recent acquisitions as the Saint John the Baptist mentioned above. Michelozzo, its creator, was Donatello’s contemporary and collaborator.

The Museum never ceased to value the grand British portraiture that was Mr. Kimbell’s original enthusiasm. In 2003 it was able to identify and purchase a remarkable double portrait from the early 1790s by Sir Henry Raeburn. The Allen Brothers is a large canvas upon which the Scottish artist conjures an endearingly playful, informal scene of two boys of the upper class with confident, free brushwork. Malcolm Warner, acting director of the Kimbell since September 2007 and senior curator since 2002, brings his particular expertise in British art to acquisitions and exhibitions in this area.

A year after the Raeburn purchase, the Kimbell acquired the German painter Lucas Cranach’s The Judgment of Paris, c. 1512–14, the first of his several versions of this tale from classical mythology (one of the later depictions may usually be found in the Northern European painting galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Remarkably for a painting of this age, the Kimbell’s Cranach has never suffered from overzealous cleaning. All the glazes, modeling, and fine details are intact, preserving the rich colors and enamel-like surface that are synonymous with Northern Renaissance oils.

The Kimbell continues to collect. This summer it placed its latest acquisition on view. Vase of Flowers with a Curtain, created by Jacques de Gheyn II in 1615, is a landmark in the history of flower painting, even though it was a “lost” work, kept in a British private collection since 1924, never exhibited in public, and known only in the form of old, black-and-white reproductions. Its acquisition by the Kimbell is a significant event in the study of Dutch art.

Currently On View

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