French Masterpieces in Kentucky
4:29 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

A Wealth of France's Greatest Paintings is Now Showing in Kentucky

If you're an art fan--and especially if you're a lover of French paintings--you'll want to take note of a major new exhibit now showing at the Speed Museum in Louisville.

It's called "Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color", and it's a collaboration between the Speed and the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis. You don't need to hold a degree in Art History to recognize the names on display: Monet, Degas, Matisse, and Cezanne, just to name a few. 

There's a lot of competition for the eyes at an exhibit with this many superstar artists. But one piece pointed out by the Speed Museum's chief curator, Ruth Cloudman, is "The Joyous Festival", a 1906 painting by Gaston La Touche. At 7 feet by 9 1/2 feet, it's the largest painting in the exhibit.

Almost all of the artists featured in the exhibit either painted during the period known as Impressionism, or were directly influenced by the Impressionist masters. Kevin Sharp is the director of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis. He says it's ironic that Impressionism is such as hit with today's art fans, because when the pieces were first displayed in 1870s Paris, they were almost universally derided.

Now, Dixon says, Impressionism stands as possibly the most identifiable and beloved art period of all time.

The Speed's exhibit runs through May 6.

It's an exciting, but bittersweet, time at the Speed. In October, the museum is closing for three years, during which a 200,000 square foot expansion and renovation will take place.

To see a photo slideshow of some of the paintings on display at the Speed, click on the picture above.

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