Yellow paper, yellow-back books, yellow prints. We are experiencing a tsunami of yellow for the opening of our exhibition, Gauguin: Paris 1889. The catalogue that curator Heather Lemonedes and Conservator Moyna Stanton labored over for years is finally here in the library! Their hard work has paid off handsomely, with groundbreaking scholarship and amazing loans from illustrious collections. The exhibition is beautiful – our museum staff is so talented.
The recreation of the exhibition installed in Monsieur Volpini’s Café des Arts, held on the grounds of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris is brilliant. Dr. Lemonedes tells us that the Volpini prints on canary yellow paper were available for sale, to be viewed upon request (none sold), but here, we have them all framed on view together. One may ask, why is this so important? For the museum visitor, it is an opportunity of a lifetime to see works of art on paper -- our complete Volpini Suite (never before on public view) and compare them to other Volpini Suite prints and paintings from museum collections that live most of the time in temperature and light controlled security. Look at the hand colored version of “Dramas of the Sea” (Van Gogh Museum) -- what exquisite detail! Below a calm blue sea, dangerous waves churn around a fisherman and his red boat, all constrained in its finite fan-shaped print. One has to see it in person to understand the effect Gauguin sought to convey. There is so much to discover here, so many works of art that the visitor might not see again. As our Chief Curator, Griff Mann says: “Don’t miss it -- this is the only U.S. venue.”
The Ingalls Library had an opportunity to assist in procuring various works on paper in the exhibition: maps, books, and the rare poster announcing the Volpini exhibition. We found a 1901 treatise examining yellow dyes in paper pulp that was so helpful to our paper conservator. A gift book from the Butkin estate provides illustrated highlights of the 1889 Expo. And we used our antique postcards from France to add introductory images to the gallery walls. It was an opportunity to feel like an active, integral part of The Cleveland Museum of Art team.
Finally, mention should be made of the accompanying photography show in the East Building, “France at the Dawn of Photography.” Drawn mostly from The Cleveland Museum of Art’s collection of photographs, one has an opportunity to view three packed galleries with images taken during the lifetime of Paul Gauguin. And the admission is free! A follow-up post about the photography show will be forthcoming.