Pop Art explained at the Musée Maillol

43948A0A-3E48-490B-808B-B9FEC69A0649For an interesting overview on Pop Art, head to the Musée Maillol on rue de Grenelle, Paris where over 60 works, on loan from the Whitney Museum, New York, are displayed in an exhibition entitled ‘Pop Art – Icons that matter’. Although I am not a fan of Pop Art, I found the exhibition interesting in it’s explanation of the development and rise of Pop Art in 1960s America. One is reminded that Pop Art was conceived in a very different era to ours, one where there was a spectacular rise in consumerism and mass production of goods. Artists reacted to this environment of mass culture by representing ordinary everyday objects and iconic figures of their time in their art, drawing inspiration for their subject matter from the barrage of  images which surrounded the consumer on billboards, advertising campaigns and comic books. Furthermore, this new generation of ‘pop’ artists reacted to the Abstract Expressionist movement of the previous generation, a movement which had dominated the art world in America in the 1950s. Abstract expressionists whose inspiration arose from the unconscious self, painted in a very personal style whereas ‘pop’ artists wanted to represent ‘popular culture’ and not their own feelings.

9DC252B9-705C-4C2D-BE53-23BEFF2033E2There are 24 artists represented at the exhibition but the opening work is by one of the era’s leading figures, Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997). The painting ‘Girl in the Window’ is immediately recognisable as a work by Lichtenstein who was well known for his use of comic book images in his art. The painting is typical of his style in its use of blocks of primary colours of red, yellow and blue and black outlines together with the application of Ben Day dots, an application which uses dots spaced in a way to create different shading and colour effects. The painting shows a smiling girl leaning out of a window with her hair blowing in the wind and it is an engaging and up beat image.

6B1C7138-F5AD-458E-BAAE-5453FE7EDADDThe next work that really caught my attention was ‘Madonna and Child’ by Allan D’Arcangelo ( 1930-1998) which is a painting of Jackie Kennedy and her daughter Caroline who are immediately recognisable by virtue of their clothes, hairstyles and Jackie’s pearls despite the fact that their faces are blank. Pop artists regularly used images of iconic figures of their time in their work and Jackie Kennedy was one such figure. I loved this painting for its simplicity yet powerful imagery depicting the First Lady and her daughter with halos, using an age-old religious theme of Madonna and Child to highlight contemporary icons. There was something a bit sad about the painting with their blank faces somehow suggesting a meaningless to their lives and this life of mass culture.

AE7FE8CE-C6A0-4171-BBAC-12CA55E7B920The nude, of course, has been depicted by artists from all eras from the lofty Venus’ of the Renaissance to Manet’s realist masterpiece ‘Olympia’, 1863. Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004) tackled this subject during the Pop Art era in a series entitled ‘Great American Nudes’ which is a series of 100 paintings executed between 1961 and 1973. Great American Nude #57, displayed at the exhibition is a dramatic piece showing a reclining nude with yellow blonde hair, a blank face except for bright red lips, bikini marks and exaggerated nipples, all very typical of Wesselmann’s nudes. Wesselman did not like to be labelled as a pop artist but his vibrant flat colours, billboard like feel to his paintings and the use of images from American popular culture have led to his inclusion in this group.

E6E67B19-7D9A-4012-A13A-CF21271E06EAAnother iconic figure of the era to feature in Pop Art was Marilyn Monroe and the depiction of her in Rosayln Drexler’s (born 1926) work called ‘Marilyn pursued by Death’, 1963, is striking. It is acrylic and paper collage on canvas, a medium frequently used by Drexler who was one of the few female pop artists to gain recognition. The two figures in the work are not placed in the centre but instead appear to the right with Marilyn running and being followed by a man who is running behind her as if shadowing her, suggesting that there is no escape from her unhappy destiny. The figures are outlined together in orange, both wearing sunglasses despite being set against a black background, all giving an uneasy feel to the whole scene.

F55E73FC-98C6-46AB-B00E-A7865DFCB8F0Finally, no exhibition on Pop Art would be complete without the inclusion of one of the movements most iconic figures, Andy Warhol (1928-1987). Warhol was famous for producing several repetitions of an image in one installation,  most famously his campbell soup cans. The exhibition includes his ‘Nine Jackies’, an acrylic, oil and screenprint on linen, with three rows of images, each row containing three repetitions of the same image of Jackie Kennedy all associated with the assassination of her husband. It is a poignant piece with the first three images showing a happy Jackie just before the assassination , the second row showing her during the funeral and the final row showing unguarded emotion during the swearing in of Johnson as the new president.

I still find Pop Art rather cold and lacking in beauty but the exhibition did a good job of explaining Pop Art against the backdrop of it’s era and I certainly have a better understanding and appreciation of it. For this reason, I found my visit to the exhibition worthwhile.

Picasso, Matisse, Braque among those featuring at the new exhibition at the Musée Maillol

I have just come from visiting a fascinating exhibition at the Musée Maillol with its combination of art and history from the first half of the twentieth century revolving around the art dealer Paul Rosenberg, 1881-1953.

Paul Rosenberg
The exhibition entitled ’21 rue La Boétie’ is based on the book of the same name by Anne Sinclair, journalist and granddaughter of Rosenberg and it brings together over 60 masterpieces associated with Rosenberg many of which were shown in his gallery at 21 rue la Boétie. Rosenberg had a remarkable eye and passion for art and as a result he represented many of the avant garde artists of his day such as Picasso, Matisse, Léger, Braque with many of whom he developed close friendships . This was particularly true of Picasso who actually moved into 23 rue la Boétie in 1918 which allowed Rosenberg to be the first to see many of Picasso’s latest works. The gallery was a hub for these artists and during it’s  Golden Age, Rosenberg held many exhibitions to promote their groundbreaking work.

Woman in Blue by Matisse
However, this all came to an end with the outbreak of the Second World War and Rosenberg, being Jewish, fled  to New York with his family. Prior to the war, Rosenberg had managed to ship many of his paintings abroad and before he departed for America he deposited the rest in a bank. Unfortunately, these were found and looted by the Nazis and in fact the gallery at 21 rue la Boétie was transformed, ironically, by the Nazis into the Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question. Rosenberg very quickly set up at a gallery in New York and although he remained there after the war, he set about tirelessly trying to recover the works looted by the Nazis. This effort continues today by his family and with one of the success stories on display at the exhibition,  ‘Woman in Blue in front of a Fireplace’ by Matisse which was only recently returned to the family in 2014 having been spotted by Anne Sinclair at an exhibition in the Centre Pompidou. 

Madame Rosenberg by Picasso
One of the first paintings to greet you at the beginning of the tour was also looted by the Nazis, this being the ‘Portrait of Madame Rosenberg and her daughter’ painted by Picasso in 1918 in the neoclassical style he had returned to after the First World War.

Male and Female Bathers by Picasso
Another painting by Picasso, but in a very different style,  which was again looted by the  Nazis and appears in the exhibition is ‘Male and Female Bathers’.

Of course the exhibition includes paintings that escaped the Nazis such as the remarkable painting by Édouard Manet entitled ‘Young Woman in Oriental Garb’, also known as ‘The Sultana’. This luckily had been shipped to America just before the war broke out.

The Sultana by Manet
The exhibition ends with an adorable small portrait of Anne Sinclair which was painted by the artist Marie Laurencin when Sinclair was just four years old.

Anne Sinclair by Matisse
Laurencin was the first artist to sign a contract with Rosenberg in 1913 and she was well known for her society portraits having painted for example, Coco Chanel.

The exhibion, which runs until the 23rd July, is at the Musée Maillol, a small museum located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.

Café des Frères Prévert 
Although small, the museum benefits from a coffee shop, Café des Frères Prévert, with a lovely setting in the vaulted cellars of the museum. However, if you want to escape the confines of the museum, they are lots of lovely coffee shops and brasseries in the vicinity. And for wine lovers there is a great wine shop just around the corner, Ryst-Dupeyron. For shoppers, Paris’ oldest department store, the legendary Le Bon Marché is only five minutes walk.