Masterworks of French Painting, Bonjour Monsieur Courbet!

“Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!”: The Bruyas Collection  of the Musée Fabre, Montpellier

Exhibition includes rare works never before seen in the U.S.

Seventy iconic works by the masters of French 19th-century art, notably Gustave Courbet and Eugène Delacroix, will be on view at the Dallas Museum of Art in “Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!”: The Bruyas Collection of the Musée Fabre, Montpellier. The exhibition, on view from Oct. 17, 2004, through Jan. 2, 2005, features paintings, drawings, and sculptures that epitomize the romantic and realist movements in 19th-century France. This exhibition gives American audiences the opportunity to view a collection that has rarely been seen outside of the Musée Fabre and never before in the United States.

All of the works are from the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, one of the finest regional museums in France. The exhibition, a project of FRAME (French Regional and American Museum Exchange), also features paintings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Camille Corot, and Jean-Léon Gérome, as well as paintings and sculptures by Antoine-Louis Barye.

The works were part of a collection assembled by Alfred Bruyas, who earned a place in the history of art by gifting his formidable collection of 19th-century art to the Musée Fabre in 1868.

“The Dallas Museum of Art takes great pride and pleasure in presenting this exceptional treasure trove of magnificent artworks,” said John R. Lane, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art.

“In many ways, the exhibition mirrors the collection at the Dallas Museum of Art. Our 19th-century European galleries are rich with works by artists included in the exhibition, such as Courbet, Corot, Narcisse-Virgile Díaz de la Peña, and Théodore Rousseau.

“This exhibition celebrates the commitment of Bruyas to his native city of Montpellier in the south of France. Instead of moving to Paris, which was at the time arguably the art capital of the world, Bruyas brought the emerging artist of the capital to Montpellier,” Lane said.

“Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!” was organized by the Musée Fabre, Montpellier; the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass.; with the Dallas Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, under the auspices of FRAME.

FRAME is a consortium of 18 French and American museums for the benefit of the cultural communities in both countries. “Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!” is the largest FRAME project yet mounted in the United States. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The Dallas venue is presented by Bank of America with support from Dr. Mark and Barbara Thomas Lemmon, Charlene C. and Tom F. Marsh and Essilor of America, Inc.

The installation and related programming is generously underwritten by the Dallas Museum of Art League. Air transportation provided by American Airlines. Promotional support provided by The Dallas Morning News. Additional support provided by Marten F. Klop and Mr. and Mrs. George A. Shutt.

“The centerpiece and the basis of the title of the exhibition is Courbet’s 1854 masterpiece Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!, which depicts the collector Bruyas welcoming the artist Courbet to the town of Montpellier,” said Dorothy Kosinski, Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art of the Dallas Museum of Art. “Bruyas’s ambition to acquire and show the best of French painting drew him into friendships with the prominent artists of the time and brought him to become one of the foremost collectors of contemporary art in France.”

Bruyas was the great champion of Courbet, purchasing his “scandalous” Bathers in 1853. In addition to Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!, the exhibition includes eight other paintings by Courbet, including his monumental Bathers and Self-Portrait with a Striped Collar (1854). Other highlights of the exhibition include Michelangelo in His Studio (c. 1850) and Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (1849) by Delacroix, Portrait of Alfred Bruyas (1846) by Alexandre Cabanel, and Study for Jesus Among the Doctors (1862) by Ingres.

Bruyas’s taste encompassed both romanticism and realism, and he collected traditional works such as those favored by the French Academy. Alexandre Cabanel, a Prix de Rome winner and another native of Montpellier, became one of the collector’s closest friends. A key work in the exhibition is Cabanel’s portrait of Bruyas at the age of 25 set against the backdrop of the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome. The portrait is one of 10 portraits of Bruyas in the exhibition, and it represents one of the first works he ever commissioned. Other portraits in the exhibition were painted by Thomas Couture, Octave Tassaert, and Edouard-Antoine Marsal, as well as two by Courbet, Delacroix, and Auguste-Barthélémy Glaize.

The exhibition also includes an exceptional selection of drawings by masters such as Ingres, Delacroix, Paul Huet, Barye, and Rousseau. This important international exhibition investigates Bruyas’s artistic preference, his friendship with many of the artists, and his determination to create a collection that would showcase and explain the best paintings of his time.

A 256-page catalogue with approximately 100 color plates and essays or contributions by 15 French and American scholars accompanies the exhibition. The catalogue is published jointly by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Yale University Press, and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux. The book will be available in the Museum Store for $60 hardcover and $35 softcover.

In conjunction with “Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!”: The Bruyas Collection of the Musée Fabre, Montpellier, the Dallas Museum of Art will present Before Impressionism: French 19th-Century Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. This two-part installation will feature works from the permanent collection by Barye, Théodore Chassériau, Corot, Courbet, Delacroix, Diaz de la Peña, Charles-Emile Jacque, Jean-Francois Millet, and Rousseau.

Concurrent with “Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!” is an installation of 18th-century French paintings, works on paper, and decorative arts from the estate of Dallas collector Michael L. Rosenberg, who passed away in 2003. This distinguished private collection includes works by Francois Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Anne Vallayer-Coster, and Jean-Baptiste Oudry. Rosenberg, a patron and trustee of the DMA, provided significant support throughout the past two decades for major painting and decorative arts acquisitions, publications, and the exhibition Anne Vallayer-Coster: Painter to the Court of Marie-Antoinette, which toured internationally to great success.