Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today ~ at Wallach Gallery



Frédéric Bazille, Young Woman with Peonies, French, 1841 – 1870, 1870, oil on canvas, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Image via Wallach Gallery, Columbia University

The Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University and the Musée d’Orsay partner to present an exhibition entitled Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today in New York and Le Modèle noir, de Géricault à Matisse in Paris.

This exhibition explores the changing modes of representation of the black figure as central to the development of modern art. The models’ interactions with and influences on painters, sculptors and photographers are highlighted through archival photographs, correspondence and films. The artists featured in the exhibition depicted black subjects in a manner counter to typical representations of the period. The works included highlight the little-known, multiracial aspect of each artist’s milieu.

Charles Alston, Girl In a Red Dress, 1934. Oil on canvas; 28 x 22 inches. The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Foundation For The Arts. Image via Wallach Gallery, Columbia University

In New York, the presentation focuses specifically on the black female figure, beginning with Edouard Manet’s 1860s portrayals of Laure, the model who posed as the maid in Olympia. In Paris, a broader and expanded treatment of the black figure begins with portaits by Marie-Guillemine Benoist and Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault at the start of the 19th century.

In both New York and Paris, the exhibition explores the work of Manet’s Impressionist-era cohort, including Frédéric Bazille, Edgar Degas and the photographer Nadar; sculptors including Charles Henri Joseph Cordier and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux; paintings, drawings and prints of Henri Matisse (before and after his 1930s Harlem visits); the portraiture of diverse artists of the Harlem Renaissance, including Charles Alston and William H. Johnson; and the legacy of these depictions for successive generations of postwar modern and contemporary artists, from Romare Bearden and Faith Ringgold through to the current moment.

Édouard Manet, Baudelaire’s Mistress (Jeanne Duval), 1862. Oil on canvas; 89.5 x 113 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Image via Wallach Gallery, Columbia University

By taking a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on the connection between the history of art and the history of ideas, the exhibition will study aesthetic, political, social and racial issues as well as the realm of the imagination—all of which is revealed in the representation of black figures in visual arts from the French and American abolition eras to the present day.

The curator of the exhibition in New York is Denise Murrell, Ph.D., Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University.

The curators for the Paris exhibition are Cécile Debray, Director of the Musée de l’Orangerie, Stéphane Guégan, scientific advisor to the President of the Musées d’Orsay and Orangerie, Denise Murrell, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, Isolde Pludermacher and Edouard Papet, curators at the Musée d’Orsay.

The exhibition is based on Denise Murrell’s 2013 dissertation for Columbia University’s department of art history and archaeology, as is the forthcoming Posing Modernity catalog, to be co-published by Yale University Press. The exhibition has been developed through the generous support of the Ford Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art. It is organized by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University in the City of New York, and the Etablissement public des musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris.

The exhibition, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, will be on view at the Wallach Gallery from October 24, 2018 to February 10, 2019, with an Opening Reception on Tuesday, October 23 from 6-8pm ~ and will then be expanded at the Musée d’Orsay from March 26 to July 14, 2019.

Gottlieb, William P. Portrait of Duke Ellington, Aquarium, New York, N.Y., Between 1946 and 1948. United States, 1946. Source: Library of Congress and The Gottlieb Collection

In addition, Duke Ellington’s Portraits and Self-Portraits will take place on Thursday, October 18 at The Lenfest Center for the Arts. This live music and illustrated presentation highlights Duke Ellington’s musical self-portraits and his portraits of people he admired ~ many of whom were black women. Ellington composed several of these works just prior to Matisse’s visit to Harlem in 1930-31; they could well have been among the works the French artist heard while here. This event is a collaboration between the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery and Center for Jazz Studies, Columbia University. Reserve your seat Here.

The Wallach Art Gallery, Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University is located at 615 West 129th Street (enter on 125th Street, just west of Broadway). The Gallery is Free and Open to the Public.