The Musée Marmottan Monet is delighted to present the exhibition “L’Orient des peintres, du rêve à la lumière” from March 7 to July 21, 2019. Featuring some sixty masterpieces from leading public and private collections in Europe and the United States (the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse, the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown), this exhibition conjures up a journey that will offer a new vision of this painting.
The energy of Napoleonic conquest inspired European painters with an imaginary vision of the Orient which they soon compared to the reality they found on their travels. Not that this experience did away with the fantasy of oriental femininity, be it the odalisque or harem woman. It continued to influence painters from Ingres and Delacroix to the early days of modern art. However, the “school of travel” brought new knowledge of architecture and the decorative arts, and this increasingly shifted traditional painterly practice towards a striving for harmony between the human body and abstract ornament, evident from Gérôme and Landelle to Vallotton, Migonney, Bernard and even Matisse.
Further, the experience of landscape, of outdoor scenes of everyday life, stimulated new practices and speeded the emancipation of colour. Faced with the dazzling light of the Orient and the novelty of its sights, artists invented new ways of painting. In landscape, from Fromentin and Lazerges to the beginnings of modern art, from the impressionists and neo-impressionists to the fauves, to Kandinsky and Klee, colour was gradually liberated from photographic exactitude. The Orient thus played its part in the birth of abstraction. In this regard, the exhibition will be an opportunity to discover certain, less well-known aspects of nascent modern art.