Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today

  • NEW YORK, New York
  • /
  • August 22, 2018

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Frédéric Bazille, Young Woman with Peonies, 1870. Oil on canvas, 23-5/8 × 29-9/16 in. (60 × 75 cm). National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in New York City will present the exhibition Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today, a sweeping re-examination of the history of modern art. On view October 24, 2018 – February 10, 2019 at the Wallach, located in Columbia’s Lenfest Center for the Arts on 125th Street west of Broadway, the exhibition presents more than 100 works of art from the mid-19th century to today, on loan from more than 40 public and private collections. Created by artists from Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Henri Matisse to Romare Bearden, and Mickalene Thomas, the works show how the representation of the black female figure has been central to the development of art for the past 150 years.

Cover of the forthcoming exhibition catalog by Denise Murrell, for "Posing Modernity The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today" (Yale University Press).

Posing Modernity is co-organized by the Wallach and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Columbia’s presentation is curated by Denise Murrell, the Wallach’s Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar.

After being shown at the Wallach, Posing Modernity will be expanded to include other works and will be presented as Le Modèle noir de Géricault à Matisse at the Musée d'Orsay, from March 26 to July 14, 2019.

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.

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.

Henri Matisse, Dame à la robe blanche (Woman in White), 1946, Oil on canvas; 96.5 x 60.3 cm. Des Moines Art Center, Acc. No. 1959.40. Courtesy The Matisse Foundation. © 2017 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society

For more information, visit: wallach.columbia.edu

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