ⓕ font-size

  • -2
  • -1
  • 0
  • +1
  • +2

From Monet to Picasso: MMCA Gwacheon transforms into 19th-century Paris

  • Facebook share button
  • Twitter share button
  • Kakao share button
  • Mail share button
  • Link share button
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Andree in Yellow Turban and Red Skirt (Reading)" (1917-1918), back, and a series of Pablo Picasso's ceramic works, including "Jacqueline at the Easel" (1956) and "Aztec Vase with Four Faces" (1957), are on view as part of the "MMCA Lee Kun-hee Collection: Monet, Picasso, and the Masters of the Belle Epoque" exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea's Gwacheon branch in Gyeonggi Province. The show invites the works of eight European masters into the gallery. Yonhap

National museum takes dive into art world of eight era-defining European masters

By Park Han-sol

Setting foot in the gray-walled circular gallery nestled in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, is like traveling back in time to 19th-century Paris in the Belle Epoque.

Surrounded by the flickering, golden-hued glow reminiscent of the gas lamps that once dotted the Parisian streets, visitors to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) only need to take a few steps forward before diving into the dreamlike art world of eight era-defining European masters.

At "Monet, Picasso and the Masters of the Belle Epoque," the museum's third exhibition series celebrating late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee's massive art donation last year, 97 paintings and ceramics ― etched with the names of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Paul Gauguin, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall and Camille Pissarro ― are ready to captivate any wandering pairs of eyes.

"They are masters in the truest sense of the word, taking the lead in the 19th- and 20th- modern art movements, spanning Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Surrealism," the show's curator, Jeon Yu-shin, said during a press conference, Tuesday.

While the eight featured artists have different birthplaces and nationalities, what brings them together is their time spent in Paris in the Belle Epoque, a golden age of Europe at the turn of the 20th century that was characterized by economic prosperity and cultural innovations prior to the outbreak of World War I.

The French capital city found itself as a hub of remarkably flourishing arts and culture, birthing numerous masterpieces and styles that stood at the forefront of international creative movements ― from Impressionism to Fauvism, Cubism and Dadaism.

A group of Pablo Picasso's bird-themed pitchers and vases, including
A group of Pablo Picasso's bird-themed pitchers and vases, including "Large Bird, Black Face" (1951) and "Bright Owl" (1955), is seen in the foreground at "Monet, Picasso, and the Masters of the Belle Epoque." Displayed in the back is Joan Miro's nearly four-meter-wide "Painting" (1953). Newsis

Taking the center stage ― both physically and figuratively ― at the exhibition is Picasso, whose 90 ceramic works of plates, vases, pitchers and tiles provide a thematic and formal connection with paintings of other seven iconic artists.

The Spanish master first developed an interest in pottery in the early 1900s in Paris when he was introduced to the ceramic vessels produced by Gauguin. However, it wasn't until decades later in the 1940s when he visited Vallauris, a town in southern France famed for its centuries-old pottery industry, that the artist began plunging into his newfound creative endeavor.

On display at the gallery is a series of ceramic objects bearing the motifs of birds, centaurs, human faces, curvaceous women and intense bullfights produced between 1948 and 1971.

Picasso designed 633 different pottery editions for over two decades, in which his original wares would be reproduced ― under his supervision ― by craftsmen at the town's Madoura workshop. The reproductions would be numbered and stamped with phrases like "Poincon Original de Picasso," "D'apres Picasso" and "Edition Picasso, Madoura."

While they constitute a lesser-known body of his work, curator Jeon said these pieces are an important testament to Picasso's ceaseless formative experiments that continued into his later years, as he blurred the boundaries between painting, sculpture and printmaking.

"The artist expressed hope that his wares, which combined the genres of painting and sculpture, would be found in the village market or used by ordinary people in their day-to-day lives ― thus producing them in multiple numbers in editions," she added.

Claude Monet's
Claude Monet's "The Water-Lily Pond" (1917-1920) / Courtesy of the MMCA

The museum's curatorial choice to use Piccaso's ceramics as a thematic gateway to other European masters' brushwork is an interesting one.

The huge disproportion between the number of pottery pieces, 90, and that of paintings, seven, on view will likely lead one to think that the connection is tenuous at best and wonder if its establishment was at all necessary.

Nevertheless, the exhibition still proves to be a special chance to appreciate the priceless pieces in one place as part of the MMCA's newly added permanent collection.

Monet's "The Water-Lily Pond" and Renoir's "Andree in Yellow Turban and Red Skirt (Reading)" document the two leading Impressionist figures' endeavors to capture the fleeting effects of light shimmering on the surface of the lily pond and on the female reader in fecund shades of blue and pink-yellow, respectively.

Gauguin's "Crane on the Banks of the Seine" portrays his initial creative foray into Impressionism before he left his job as a stockbroker and began pursuing painting full-time.

Camille Pissarro's
Camille Pissarro's "The Cereal Market in Pontoise" (1893) / Courtesy of the MMCA

His mentor and patron, Pissarro, is shown side by side at the gallery through "The Cereal Market in Pontoise," where he applied pointillism favored by younger Neo-Impressionists to depict a crowded marketplace. In addition to serving as a celebrated star of the Impressionist movement, Pissarro is considered a father figure to a number of later generations of creators, including Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cezanne.

Spanish-born Dali, Miro and Picasso, as well as Belarusian-born Chagall, belonged to the loosely defined group of Ecole de Paris, referring to the artists of non-French origin who settled in Paris in the first half of the 20th century.

Each painter's expressive use of colors in unique pictorial styles has birthed a striking constellation of women, birds, stars, mythological figures and flowers floating freely on canvas or on the surface of pitchers and plates.

"Monet, Picasso and the Masters of the Belle Epoque" runs through Feb. 26, 2023, at the MMCA Gwacheon.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir's
Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Andree in Yellow Turban and Red Skirt (Reading)" (1917-1918) / Courtesy of the MMCA
Park Han-sol

Interactive News

  • E-Prix thrills racing fans in Seoul
  • With tough love,
  • 'Santa dogs' help rebuild burnt forests in Andong
  • 'Santa dogs' help rebuild burnt forests in Andong
  • A tale of natural wine

Top 10 Stories

go top LETTER