The rise of Modernism, from the early nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth, was played out with particular intensity in France, especially in Paris where international artists were drawn by salons and dealers, the creative exchanges between poets and painters, and the bohemian atmosphere of such places as Montmartre and Montparnasse.
This catalogue traces a course from Neo-Classical and Romantic artists like David, Ingres, Géricault and Delacroix, through Impressionists and Post-Impressionists like Degas, Monet and Seurat, to the ground-breaking experiments of Picasso and Braque; but it also shows that there was no straight line leading from tradition to the shock of abstraction. The story is altogether more interesting as academic artists and members of the avant-garde exchanged ideas and as rivalries developed between different schools and powerful characters. In works by Manet, Cézanne, Degas, Cassatt, van Gogh, Matisse, Léger and Picasso, this catalogue explores the artists who created Modernism and how they did it.
At the heart of the story is a choice group of works by Picasso, Braque and other artists who first experimented with Cubism. Examples include an early study by Picasso for Les Demoiselles d Avignon of 1906 7, and oil paintings and works on paper produced by artists who exhibited at the first public showing of Cubism, the Salon des Indépendants of 1911, and other landmark exhibitions, including Léger and important, but now lesser-known figures like Juan Gris, Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger and Jacques Villon. Colin Harrison is the senior curator for European Art in the Ashmolean Museum.