Worcester, MA.- The Worcester Art Museum is pleased to present “Leisure, pleasure and the Debut of the Modern French Woman”, a selection of prints and drawings from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that illustrate an overall shift in the depiction of women in France. Stereotypically seen in pastoral, aristocratic settings, French women in eighteenth century art are typically portrayed as virtuous role models or dangerous coquettes. However, less than a century later, though depictions such as these still remain, women are portrayed with greater influence economically and socially, and with greater intellectual and emotional depth. The exhibition features works by Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, James Tissot, Paul Gauguin, Philibert-Louis Debucourt, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Mary Cassatt along with other major artists from both centuries. “Leisure, pleasure and the Debut of the Modern French Woman” is on view at the museum until September 11th.
The Worcester Art Museum, also known by its acronym WAM, houses over 35,000 works of art dating from antiquity to the present day, representing cultures from all over the world. The WAM opened in 1898 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and is the second largest art museum in New England. In September 1896 Stephen Salisbury III and a group of his friends gathered together to created the Art Museum Corporation. Salisbury then gave a tract of land, on what was once the Salisbury farm (now fronting Salisbury Street in Worcester, Massachusetts), as well as $100,000 USD to build an art museum. The museum was designed by Steven Earl, a Worcester architect, and formally opened in 1898. The museum’s collection at this point consisted largely of plaster casts of “antique and Renaissance” sculptures as well as a selection of 5,000 Japanese prints, drawings, and books, willed to the museum from John Chandler Bancroft, son of John Bancroft. In 1905, Stephen Salisbury died and left the “bulk” of his five million dollar estate to the Art museum.
The Worcester Art Museum continued to grow and slowly gathered a world class art collection. The WAM became the first museum in the United States to purchase works by Claude Monet as well as Paul Gauguin. The museum was also the first institution to transport a medieval building, the chapter house, from Europe and install it in America. Between 1932 and 1939, the Worcester Art Museum joined a consortium of museums and institutions to sponsor expeditions to the archaeological sites where the city of Antioch once stood. This group of museums, including Princeton University, the musée du Louvre, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Harvard University’s affiliate Dumbarton Oaks, discovered hundreds of intricate floor mosaics. the Antioch mosiacs as they are now known, were split up amongst the institutions The WAM received many mosiacs including the Worcester Hunt which now is installed in the Renaissance Court’s floor.
Beginning in the 1990s the WAM began renovating all of its galleries. Beginning with the European galleries and then the Chinese Decorative Arts Gallery, the museum then moved onto its Early American Galleries, and Art Since the Mid-20th Century Galleries. The Art Since the Mid-20th Century galleries had been closed for about a decade before they were reopened as part of this program. The renovation of there two galleries cost $85,000USD and included new flooring, lighting, wall refinishing, and some conservation work. In addition to the Roman mosaic-laden Renaissance court and French chapter house, strengths of the permanent collection include collections of European and North American painting, prints, photographs, and drawings; Asian art; Greek and Roman sculpture and mosaics; and Contemporary art. European paintings include some fine Flemish Renaissance paintings, an El Greco, a Rembrandt, and a room of impressionist and 20th century works by the likes of Monet, Matisse, Renoir, Gauguin, and Kandinsky.
The American painting collection includes works by Thomas Cole, Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, William Morris Hunt, Elizabeth Goodridge, among others. In the 20th century gallery, the Museum displays works by Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Joan Mitchell. In 1901, John Chandler Bancroft, a wealthy Bostonian, bequeathed more than 3,000 Japanese prints. The Bancroft collection spans the history of woodcut printmaking in Japan, with particular strength in rare, early images from the late 17th and 18th centuries. Salisbury’s estate donation included many portraits commissioned by his family, as well as sculpture, furniture, and silver. These works, by artists such as Gilbert Stuart, Thomas Crawford, and Samuel F.B. Morse and the craftsmen Paul Revere, Edward Winslow, and Nathanial Hurd, constituted the nucleus of the American collections. Visit the museum’s website at … http://www.worcesterart.org