BOSTON COLLEGE McMULLEN MUSEUM OF ART PRESENTS
PREMIER BELGIAN ART; MOST IN FIRST NORTH AMERICAN DISPLAY
New Key: Modern Belgian Art from the Simon Collection
10 - July 22, 2007
CHESTNUT HILL, MA (12-06) – The McMullen
Museum of Art at Boston College presents A New Key: Modern
Belgian Art from
the Simon Collection. The exhibition—on view from February
10 through July 22, 2007—comprises 53 works of art, most
in their first North American display. This is also the first
time that this selection of works has been displayed together
as a group.
The Simon Collection, housed in London and France,
is the finest collection of modern Belgian art outside Belgium.
(More on the
Simon Collection, page 2.) This exhibition includes important
paintings by René Magritte, James Ensor, Frits van den
Berghe, Paul Delvaux, Theo van Rysselberghe, Emile Claus, Leon
Spilliaert, Gustave de Smet and Constant Permeke, among others.
to organizers, modernist scholarship has focused on Paris, Berlin,
Moscow and New York as the centers of modern art.
To focus only on art produced in these cities does not do justice
to local traditions—which produced significant works of
art, deeply rooted in their cultural context. This exhibition
challenges the canon by examining Belgium. It reveals how the
history of modern art looks different when viewed from the vantage
point of this “marginal” center—hence the exhibition
title, “A New Key.”
“This exhibition provides the exceptional opportunity to present a most
well-chosen and well-considered collection of modern Belgian art for investigation
by the leading scholars of the field in North America today. The results are
groundbreaking, providing a new key to expanding our concept of modernisms at
the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century,” said
McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer.
“These works are not only extraordinarily beautiful, but
they offer a fascinating window into the development of modern
art. Belgium is clearly revealed as an
indispensable font of Expressionism and Surrealism," said Boston College
Fine Arts Department Professor Jeffery Howe, exhibition curator and leading
American historian of modern Belgian art.
The exhibition provides a choice
and rich sampling that epitomizes the extraordinary
accomplishments of Belgian artists from the late nineteenth century to
World War II. During this period, which defined modernism, Belgium
by artistic breakthroughs and cataclysmic political and social upheavals.
American audiences have had few opportunities to see Belgian art of this
era, and many
of the artists featured in the exhibition are rarely displayed in the United
[MEDIA NOTE: Images available upon request from the Museum:
call Naomi Blumberg at (617) 552-4676 or email email@example.com.]
Public Opening Celebration
On Tuesday, February 13, the public
is invited to an opening celebration, which is free of charge
and will be held at
at 7 p.m. The event will feature music from the artists’ circles.
Howe shared copies of sheet music connected to Magritte—which he
found in Brussels last summer—with Sebastian Bonaiuto, director
of bands at Boston College. Bonaiuto arranged the music for modern instruments,
and the results will be premiered
by a small ensemble under his direction. The public event will be preceded,
on February 9, by a black-tie celebration for invited guests. It will
by Henry and Françoise Simon, with an official opening by His
Excellency Dominique Struye de Swielande, Ambassador of Belgium to the
United States. [NOTE:
To arrange attendance at the Feb. 13 event, call 617-552-8587 or email
A New Key: Modern Belgian Art from the Simon Collection
The exhibition comprises 48 paintings, one drawing and four
sculptures, which were chosen
from a large
collection to exemplify the national character of Belgian art.
These works have never before been displayed together, and as a group,
they tell the story of Belgian artistic vision, doubt and perseverance
themes in which they will be grouped in the exhibition: Looking Outward:
Landscape and Village Scenes; Work and Labor; The View from Within:
Interiors and Still
life; The Human Dimension: The Figure; The Impact of the First World
War; The Fantastic and Carnivalesque.
The exhibition will explore how each of these themes reveals questions
of meaning and identity that haunted Belgian artists during this
unusually complicated history, and it often seems impossible to separate
historical facts from ideology and national myths, according to organizers.
But they note
that “works of art may provide an ideal model for the nature of
historical interpretation, because of the importance of subjective factors.”
A New Key, they explain, seeks to understand modernism more fully
by exploring Belgium through its art as a place—rooted in history and geography—where
issues of political identity and linguistic identity have been particularly challenging. “The
exhibition,” organizers note, “will introduce Americans to the extraordinary
visual virtuosity of one of the world’s great artistic traditions, with
which they are largely unfamiliar.”
The Simon Collection
The Simon Collection is acknowledged by
scholars to be the finest collection of modern Belgian art outside
Belgium. The collection
was formed over
the last 30 years by Henry and Françoise Simon, who focused
their collecting entirely on Belgian art.
In 2003-2004, a different
and larger selection of works from this
collection, which included contemporary abstract art, was shown
in major museums
in Brussels (Musée d’Ixelles) and Laren, the Netherlands
(Singer Museum); in 2005-2006 the exhibition traveled to four Japanese
museums (Fuchu Art Museum,
Shimonoseki City Art Museum, Sakura City Museum of Art, Akita Senshu
Museum of Art) under the patronage of the Embassy of the Kingdom
“This is the first time that our collection is exhibited
in North America and the first time at an academic institution.
We are particularly pleased that it
takes place at the McMullen Museum. This will allow many young
people, the students at Boston College, to see the exhibition
and become acquainted with Belgian art,” said
A fully illustrated catalogue, edited by
Howe, will accompany the exhibition. The essays, written by a
of the modern
A New Key: Modernism and National Identity in Belgian
Boston College Fine Arts Department Professor Jeffery Howe, exhibition
Pauvre Belgique: Collecting Practices and Belgian Art in
and outside Belgium
Hampshire College Professor of Art History Sura Levine
Boston College Fine Arts Department Adjunct Associate Professor
“Laughter Liberates us from Fear”—The Place of Carnival in
Boston College Honors Program Adjunct Associate Professor Susan
Freudian Themes in the Symbolist Work of George Minne
Boston College Fine Arts Department Associate Professor Claude
Occupied Belgium: The Art of War
Boston College Fine Arts Department Professor John J. Michalczyk
[For more details on the exhibition catalogue, see www.bc.edu/artmuseum]
Museum of Art
The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary
exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the display and
scholarship of the works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational
resource for all of
New England as well as the national and the international community. The
Museum displays its notable permanent collection and mounts exhibitions
scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art.
In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, the Museum’s
exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs.
The 10th anniversary of the formal reopening of the Museum was marked in 2003-04.
Charles S. and Isabella V. McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 in honor
of the late parents of the late Boston College benefactor, trustee and art
collector John J. McMullen.
McMullen Museum Hours and Tours
Admission to the McMullen Museum is free; it
is handicapped accessible and open to the public. The Museum is located in
Devlin Hall on BC’s Chestnut Hill campus, at 140 Commonwealth Avenue. During this
exhibition, hours are: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and
Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Closed on the following dates: April 6, 8 and 16;
May 28; July 4, 2007.
Exhibition tours will be given every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Free group tours
arranged upon request; call (617) 552-8587. For directions, parking and information
accompanying public programs, visit www.bc.edu/artmuseum or call (617) 552-8100.
An audio tour of the exhibition, written and narrated by Howe
and other contributors to the exhibition catalogue, will be available
on iPods in the Museum free of
charge, and on the Museum website for downloading free of charge.
The exhibition has been underwritten by Boston College with
major support from SV Life Sciences and the Patrons of the McMullen
Museum. Additional support has been provided by the Kingdom of
Belgium and the Society of Friends of Belgium. This exhibition
is also supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on
the Arts and Humanities.