Renoir and Algeria to Open at the Clark Art Institute on February 16

For Immediate Release

November 01, 2002

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute will present the first ever exhibition devoted to the Algerian subjects of Pierre Auguste Renoir this spring. Organized by the Clark, Renoir and Algeria will open at the Institute February 16, 2003, and will later travel to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris. The exhibition comprises about 15 portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes inspired by the French Impressionist artist's two trips to Algeria in 1881 and 1882.

 "There is an unexpected beauty and emotional resonance to these little-known works," says Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. "Renoir was one of a line of progressive painter-travelers extending from Delacroix to Matisse. Like many of our exhibitions, Renoir and Algeria focuses on a special aspect of a familiar and popular artist, and presents new scholarly research to the public."

Organized by guest curator Roger Benjamin of the University of Sydney, a leading scholar of French Orientalist painting, the exhibition focuses on the works directly created as a result of Renoir's trips to Algeria, as well as places Renoir's work in the context of the cultural and political relationships of France and Algeria. Like many artists of his day, Renoir painted a number of Orientalist and Algerian themes in the studio, including works as early as 1870, eleven years before he first set foot in Algeria. Renoir made his first trip to the then-French colony in March of 1881, and returned the following year to recuperate from an illness. Renoir and Algeria includes loans from American and European museums and private collections, such as The Mosque, Arabian Festival (1881) and Algerian Landscape with the Ravine of the Savage Women (1881) from the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

In addition to these works, a highlight of the exhibition is the Clark's painting, Mademoiselle Fleury in Algerian Costume, one of more than thirty Renoir paintings in the Institute's collection.  The work was painted in 1882 by Renoir on his second trip to Algeria, and is a lush, life-size portrait of the young daughter of the French governor-general of Algeria.  Mlle. Fleury is lavishly dressed in Algerian garb and is depicted crossing a courtyard with a small falcon in her hand.

A selection of Algerian travel postcards will be included, drawn from the Benjamin's personal collection. Also on few will be a group of nineteenth-century photographs of French Algeria.

A 176-page catalogue with 68 color plates will be published by the Clark and Yale University Press ($45 hardcover, $29.95 softcover).

The exhibition is organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. The catalogue publication is made possible in part through the generous support of Patti Cadby Birch.

Renoir and Algeria is the latest in a series of self-organized special exhibitions at the Clark that present new scholarship in publicly appealing shows done in collaboration with major European museums, such as 2001's Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860-1900 and 2002's Gustav Klimt Landscapes. The Clark last investigated and presented Orientalist art in the 2000 traveling show Noble Dreams: Wicked Pleasures, which focused on the phenomenon as manifested in American art and popular culture.

Renoir and Algeria will be on view at the Clark February 16 through May 11, 2003. A full range of public programs, beginning with the Clark's annual winter party on February 15, will accompany the exhibition. Upcoming exhibitions organized by the Clark include Turner: The Late Seascapes (Summer 2003), Edouard Baldus: Landscape and Leisure in Early French Photography (Fall 2003) and Jacques-Louis David: Empire and Exile (Summer 2005).

The Clark

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is one of the country's foremost art museums and also a dynamic center for research and higher education in art history and criticism. The Clark's exceptional collections of Old Master, Impressionist, and 19th-century American art on display in the museum's intimate galleries are enhanced by the beauty of its 140-acre setting in the Berkshires.

The Institute is one of only a few art museums in the U.S. that is also a major research and academic center, with an international fellowship program and regular conferences, symposia, and colloquia, and an important art research library. The Clark, together with Williams College, jointly sponsors one of the nation's leading M.A. programs in art history and encompasses one of the most comprehensive art history libraries in the world. Its Fellows and conference programs draw university and museum professionals from around the world.

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts.  The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free through May.  For more information call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.

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