Art News

The National Museum of Singapore Shows Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay

artwork: Henri Rousseau - "War or The Cavalcade of Discord", circa 1894 - Oil on canvas - 114 x 195 cm. - Collection of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. On view at National Museum of Singapore in "Dreams & Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing & Photography from the Musée d’Orsay" until February 5th 2012.

Singapore.- The National Museum is proud to host “Dreams & Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing & Photography from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris”, on view at the museum until February 5th 2012. Instead of travelling 12 long hours to Paris to appreciate the world’s finest  collection of modern art, Singaporeans can now view over 140 Salon, Realist, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works from the greatest painters in the likes of Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas and many more at the National Museum of Singapore.Titled “Dreams & Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing  & Photography of  the Musée d’Orsay, Paris”, the exhibition is a rare opportunity for the art works to travel out of the Musée d’Orsay is possible only because the museum is undergoing renovation works of its galleries.

At the turn of the century from 1848 to 1914, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, a rapidly urbanising social and economic landscape in Europe compelled Man to react towards modernity. The arts particularly grew in prominence as artists were confronted by a whole new world of ideas, possibilities and influences. Some chose to pursue their desire to capture contemporary subjects; others who were anguished and disorientated by the onslaught of massive change, sought refuge in their dreams and imagination founded on mythologies, legends and ancient civilisations. Their varied response generated new ways of depicting reality and a proliferation of artistic styles, redefining their own identities amidst the radical transformations taking place around them. This exhibition is divided into four main sections: Allegory and History, Man and Contemporary Life, Man and Nature and Solitude.

artwork: Alexandre Cabanel - "The Birth of Venus", 1863 - Oil on canvas - 130 x 223 cm. - Collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Allegory and History is illustrated with works by artists such as Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, who blended myths of classical antiquity with history and reality, creating a new trend that was perpetuated in the Salons during the second half of the 19th century. Gods and goddesses were increasingly depicted as stylised figures, stripped of meaning. During the Romantic period in the 19th century, the links between literature, theatre, music and painting grew. Artists sought to free themselves of classicism; yearning freedom, they embraced a dark melancholy and rebellious pessimism. After France surrendered and lost two provinces Alsace and a large part of Lorraine to Prussia in the 1870 War, many artists were affected by the tragic events and dedicated paintings and drawings to the defence of Paris and the Commune – a resistance movement against the Empire’s defeat. Man and Contemporary Life Family Family was the only constant source of stability, comfort and moral support for the artists. Family members thus became tractable models with whom the artists could share their difficulties in artistic creation. When the once agrarian society transited into an urban one, some artists  felt nostalgic towards the countryside as a sort of “lost paradise”, while others denounced the archaic conditions and exploitation of peasants.

Another group of artists looked at a different reality – contemporary life in the city and the exalted heroism of factory workers. As Paris modernised, an array of new leisure activities sprung up. Artists began to discover the beauty of modern life by painting new places like theatres, public gardens and railways. Man and Nature The Human Figure From the mid-19th century, traditional approaches to figure-painting, portraits and nudes were widely challenged and succeeded by new artistic styles which included informal poses, people donning their own clothes performing daily tasks in their homes or on the streets. While landscape in art was initially linked to history, mythology and the Bible, it moved towards a more subjective and lyrical interpretation from the second half of the 18th century onwards. Towards the end of the 19th century, landscapes became increasingly devoid of human presence, underlining the insignificance of man as a subject compared to the forces of Nature. Man as a solitary being Surrounded by progress on all fronts, a group of artists were concerned about the irreversible changes made to the fast urbanising environment, hence, they set out to depict Man as a solitary being. In the artists’ perspective, the only way humans can escape the weight of science and technology is through the individual’s mind.

artwork: Jean-François Millet - "Spring", 1868-1873 - Oil on canvas - 86 x 111 cm. - Collection of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. On view at National Museum of Singapore in "Dreams & Reality" until February 5th 2012.

With a history dating back to its inception in 1887, the National Museum of Singapore is the nation’s oldest museum with a progressive mind. The National Museum is a custodian of the 11 National Treasures, and its Singapore History and Living Galleries adopt cutting-edge and varied ways of presenting history and culture to redefine conventional museum experience. A cultural and architectural landmark in Singapore, the Museum hosts vibrant festivals and events all year round – the dynamic Night Festival, visually arresting art installations, as well as amazing performances and film screenings – in addition to presenting lauded exhibitions and precious artefacts. The programming is supported by a wide range of facilities and services including F&B, retail and a Resource Centre. The National Museum of Singapore reopened in December 2006 after a three-year redevelopment. The museum used to house a vast collection of zoological items, but were transferred to the National University of Singapore (NUS) and other museums in the Commonwealth.

Among the highlights of the collections are the Singapore Stone, the Gold Ornaments of the Sacred Hill from East Java, a Dagguerreotype of Singapore Town which was one of the earliest photographs of Singapore, the will of Munshi Abdullah, the portrait of Frank Athelstane Swettenham, the hearse of Tan Jiak Kim, a Peranakan coffin cover, the mace of the City of Singapore commemorating King George VI’s raising of the island’s status to a city in 1951, the Xin Sai Le puppet stage, William Farquhar’s drawings of flora and fauna and the portrait of Shenton Thomas, who was the former governor of Singapore. Rocks from the nearby Fort Canning Hill were used to create two sculptures commissioned from Cultural Medallion-winner Han Sai Por. Visit the museum’s website at …