June 17, 2002
European masterworks on at SAM
by Deborah Stone
Arts and Entertainment
Seattle Art Museum is currently host to a traveling exhibition of 19th and early 20th century European masterworks from the Smith College Museum of Art.
The show features nearly 60 paintings and sculptures representing such artists as Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Kandinsky, Corot, Courbet, Rodin and Picasso.
"Corot to Picasso: European Masterworks from the Smith College Museum of Art" is an impressive collection from one of the country's preeminent college art museum collections. The museum began in 1879 with contemporary American works, but then it expanded its collecting focus to include European acquisitions. Initial director Alfred Vance Churchill shaped the museum's collecting policy to focus on the development of modern art, beginning with the French Revolution. "Corot to Picasso" has been traveling to various venues while the Smith College Museum of Art is closed for renovation and expansion. Among its highlights include Courbet's "Preparation of the Dead Girl," two landscapes by Monet, Picasso's blue-period "Figures by the Sea," an early Rodin piece, "Man with a Broken Nose" and Cezanne's "La Route Tournante a la Roche Guyon." A few of the works are unfinished and were acquired by Churchill so that Smith College art students could be able to study the working methods of the masters.
Some of the paintings were controversial and caused quite a spark at the time the museum acquired them. Corot's classical painting, "La Blonde Gasconne,"was found to be risqu because it showed a woman with a bare shoulder. Others objected to Picasso's cubist piece, "La Table," at the time it was acquired in 1932, but the museum's director at the time, Jere Abbot believed in the importance of this piece. Subsequently, other figurative paintings by Picasso were acquired later.
SAM's Chief Curator of Collections, Chiyo Ishikawa, says, "We're so pleased to have the opportunity to present this impressive collection in Seattle. Thanks to the vision of Smith College's early museum directors, the collection is a classic view of art history told through brilliant works of art that are the envy of many larger museums."
"Corot to Picasso" runs through Sept. 15 and is accompanied by a variety of lectures and programs held at SAM and other venues in Seattle. For more information, call (206) 654-3100.