The Fondation Louis Vuitton will present the collection of Samuel Courtauld, the English industrialist and patron of the arts, for the first time in Paris in more than sixty years, from February 20th to June 17th 2019.
In parallel to the presentation of the Courtauld Collection, the rest of the Fondation Louis Vuitton building will be devoted to a new selection of works from its collection, entitled A Vision for Painting, from February 20th to August 26th 2019.
The Courtauld Collection: A Vision for Impressionism brings together some 110 works, including 60 paintings and graphic pieces, which are mainly conserved in the Courtauld Gallery or in different international public and private collections. It will enable the public to discover some of the greatest French paintings from the end of the 19th century and from the very beginning of the 20th century in Paris, sixty years after their first presentation together in 1955 at the Musée de l’Orangerie.
These works include Un Bar aux Folies Bergère (1882) by Manet, La Jeune Femme se poudrant by Seurat (1889-90), Les Joueurs de cartes by Cézanne (1892-96), Autoportrait à l’oreille bandée by Van Gogh (1889), Nevermore by Gauguin (1897), as well as a set of ten watercolours by J.M.W. Turner which belonged to Samuel Courtauld’s brother, Sir Stephen Courtauld.
Samuel Courtauld’s links with France determined the spirit and motivations of his collection. His family, who originally came from the Île d’Oléron, emigrated to London in the late 17th century. Having been silversmiths, his ancestors created a textile business in 1794 which became one of the largest in the world at the very beginning of the 20th century following the invention of viscose, a revolutionary synthetic fibre. Samuel Courtauld became the company’s president in 1921, and would remain at its head until 1945. As a passionate Francophile, he regularly spent time in Paris, often purchasing works of art from French dealers, advised, amongst others, by the art historian and dealer Percy Moore Turner.
In 1931, Samuel Courtauld’s desire to give the public access to the history of art and to the works led him to create the Courtauld Institute, housed in the family residence of Home House. He added seventy-four pieces, or half of his collection (paintings, drawings, prints), which were freely accessible to the students. The remainder of the collection, as well as several works which were acquired later on, was bequeathed to the Courtauld Institute upon his death.
The exhibition of the Courtauld Collection embodies the Fondation Vuitton’s aim to showcase the role of emblematic collectors from the history of art, following on from previous exhibitions organised by the Fondation which have brought together great works of Modernism, collected by prestigious public institutions: “Les Clefs d’une passion” (2014-2015), “Être Moderne : Le MoMA à Paris” (2017-2018) and by inspired collectors: “Icônes de l’art moderne. La Collection Chtchoukine” (2016-2017).
The visitor’s route through the exhibition in the galleries 1, 2 and 3 was developed on the one hand based on exceptional collections of the two main figures, Cézanne and Seurat, and on the other hand, on major works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Modigliani.
A New Selection of Works
On the upper three floors and the terrace of the Fondation Louis Vuitton is a display of a new selection of 75 works from the collection (by 23 international artists), from the 1960s to the present day. The theme is painting. This takes many forms: figurative or abstract, expressive or distanced. Relief pieces are contrasted with each other. Rooms devoted to Joan Mitchell, Alex Katz, Gerhard Richter, Ettore Spalletti, Yayoi Kusama and Jesús Rafael Soto alternate with thematic collections on abstraction, space and colour. The hanging shows the ways in which painting never ceases to reinvent itself and transgress its own rules, drawing on current techniques for reproduction.
Since its inauguration in 2014, the Fondation has regularly presented a choice of works from the Collection. The first hangings were designed according to the themes of the collection: Contemplation, Expressionism, Popism, and Music/Sound (2014-2016). Exhibitions have subsequently been shown in the context of specific events, dedicated to China (2016) and Africa (2017). Finally, the collection has been approached from a thematic angle, questioning the place of Mankind in the living world, in the exhibition “Au diapason du monde” (2018).