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Boston College McMullen Museum Presents Courbet: Mapping Realism

September 1–December 8, 2013

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Gustave Courbet (1819–77), Winter Landscape, c. 1864–68, Oil on canvas, 71.5 x 87 cm, Private collection


CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. (August 2013) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College presents an exclusive exhibition that maps the travels and influence on foreign artists of one of France’s most prolific and innovative painters: Gustave Courbet, the leader of the realist movement.

Courbet: Mapping Realism will open on September 1 and run through December 8, 2013. It expands upon the May–August 2013 exhibition Gustave Courbet and Belgium at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. That exhibition examines the role played by Belgium in Courbet’s development and the positive response by Belgian artists and collectors to the bold social commentary in his work.

Courbet: Mapping Realism, comprised of forty-nine works, includes additional paintings by Courbet in American collections to tell the story of his reception here. Also on view are exceptional paintings by Courbet’s American contemporaries, including Elizabeth Boott Duveneck, Martin Johnson Heade, Winslow Homer, William Morris Hunt, Eastman Johnson, and John La Farge. These works reveal the role he played in shaping American painting.

“The McMullen Museum is pleased to be collaborating again with the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium to bring a groundbreaking exhibition that ‘maps’ the reception and influence in both Belgium and America of one of France’s most prolific and innovative artists of the nineteenth century. The exhibition provides an opportunity to see many outstanding paintings never before on public display this side of the Atlantic,” says McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer.

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Gustave Courbet (1819–77), Jura Landscape, 1869, Oil on canvas, 59.7 x 73.3 cm, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Museum, Appropriation Fund, by exchange and Walter H. Kimbell Fund, 43.571, Photo: Erik Gould

Gustave Courbet (1819–77)
A pioneer of modernism, Courbet is known for his innovative depictions of social themes as well as landscapes and portraits. Born in the city of Ornans, he became one of the most unconventional painters of his time, rejecting both academic art and romantic idealism in favor of realist depictions of society and fresh, natural landscapes. A free spirit and frequent traveler, Courbet found particular success in Belgium, where he played a pivotal role in the Belgian realist movement.

Exhibition: Curators, Sponsors, and Support
Organized by the McMullen Museum and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Courbet: Mapping Realism is curated by Boston College Professor of Art History Jeffery Howe and Dominique Marechal, curator of nineteenth-century art at the Royal Museums. The exhibition is underwritten by Boston College, the Patrons of the McMullen Museum, and the Newton College Classes of 1968 and 1973.

“This exhibit provides a unique opportunity to see Courbet’s art in the context of both Belgian realism and art from New England of the same era,” according to Howe. “Using the metaphor of a map, we can trace the impact of Courbet’s pivotal transformation of European art and parallels in American art. The rich collections of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium confirm Courbet’s importance in European art, and the generous loans from museums and outstanding private collections in New England and New York offer new insights into the development of realism in America.”

 “The present exhibition not only sheds new light on the six paintings by Courbet conserved in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, but also on the role played by this major figure of modernity in the development of Belgium’s realist movement from the 1850s to 1870s,” noted Marechal. [More on the Royal Museums of Fine Art of Belgium exhibit]

Courbet: Mapping Realism
The McMullen Museum exhibition first traces Courbet’s influence on Belgian artists and then moves across the Atlantic to chart his impact on American painters, including William Morris Hunt, John La Farge, and Winslow Homer. While Courbet’s paintings were often controversial in France, in America—particularly New England—artists responded warmly to his paintings of natural landscapes and found inspiration in his direct observation of nature. According to organizers, visitors to the exhibition will discover that Boston’s private collectors and the Allston Club, an independent artists’ association, both collected and displayed Courbet’s landscapes. An early purchase by Isabella Stewart Gardner, A View across a River, is among the works in the exhibition.

[MEDIA NOTE: Jpg/Tiff images available on request from the McMullen: please e-mail Kate Shugert (kate.shugert@bc.edu). Slideshow of images, more exhibition details at www.bc.edu/artmuseum]

Public Opening Reception: September 1, 2013, 7–9:30 p.m.
On Sunday, September 1 from 7 to 9:30 p.m., the public is invited to join BC community members at a free opening reception with a special evening viewing at the Museum, in Devlin Hall Room 101. For information contact 617.552.8587 or artmusm@bc.edu.

Accompanying Free, Public Lectures at the McMullen Museum

November 7, 5–7 p.m.: Dr. Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, a world-authority on Courbet who has translated his correspondence and written numerous books on the French realist, will speak.

November 14, 5–7 p.m.: Elliot Bostwick Davis, John Moors Cabot Chair of the Art of the Americas Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will speak on the collection and legacy of her great-grandmother, Louisine Havemeyer, who was an early and prolific collector of Courbet. Her lecture is titled: “Gustave Courbet’s ‘Savage Tenacity of Truth’: Reflections by American Collector, Louisine Havemeyer.”

For information: Call 617.552.8587; email artmusm@bc.edu; or visit http://www.bc.edu/artmuseum.

Accompanying Exhibition Catalogue
A volume of essays by American and Belgian scholars accompanies the exhibition. Along with curator and editor Jeffery Howe, contributors include Boston College Professors of Art History Claude Cernuschi and Katherine Nahum, Dominique Marechal, and Jean-Philippe Huys, a researcher at the Centre international pour l'Étude du XIXe siècle in Brussels.

McMullen 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 international community. The Museum mounts exhibitions of international 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 McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 for the late BC benefactor, trustee, and art collector John J. McMullen and his wife Jacqueline McMullen.

McMullen Museum Hours and Tours
Admission is free; handicapped accessible, open to the public. Located in Devlin Hall 101on BC’s Chestnut Hill campus, 140 Commonwealth Avenue. Hours during this exhibition: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Closed: September 2; October 14; November 28–29. No campus parking available on the following Saturdays: September 28, October 5, November 2, and November 16. Free docent-led tours from 2–2:45 p.m. Sundays from September 15 through December 8, 2013. Tours also arranged upon request by calling 617.552.8587. For directions, parking and program information, call 617.552.8100 or visit www.bc.edu/artmuseum.

Media Contact: (not for publication): Nancy Netzer, Director, McMullen Museum, netzer@bc.edu