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Recent art history has increasingly focused on the social and political context of French modernism, largely ignoring the new forms of beauty championed by the Impressionists and other avant-garde artists of the last two decades of the 19th century. In the inaugural Getty Museum Distinguished Lecture series, leading scholar Richard Brettell selects three paintings at the Getty by Édouard Manet, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne, each representing a single human figure and addressing a radically new and different form of beauty that was based both on rigorous analysis of past pictorial ideals and on the particular conditions of modernity of interest to each artist. Together these lectures offer a radically new pictorialization of beauty in French modern painting. At the conclusion of the 3rd talk, Edward Goldman, host of KCRW's "Art Talk," joins Brettell to discuss the lectures.


Édouard Manet,
Jeanne (Spring)

Date: Sunday, February 28, 2016
Time: 2:00 p.m.
Location: Harold M. Williams Auditorium

The chic young woman in a day dress with floral accents and holding a parasol is aspiring Parisian actress Jeanne Demarsy, depicted as the embodiment of Spring. This portrait debuted at the last major public exhibition of Manet's life, the Paris Salon of 1882. For more than two decades, Manet's paintings were rejected by the Salon or met with controversy; Spring was the most unalloyed success of the artist's Salon career, a career that ended tragically a year later when Manet died of causes related to syphilis.

When composing Spring, Manet had in view both the latest fashion trends and old artistic traditions. An avid connoisseur of feminine couture, he pieced together Jeanne's ensemble himself by scouring dressmakers' and milliners' shops. Posing his model in the studio, however, he referred to portrait conventions of the early Italian Renaissance, presenting her half-length, in profile, and against a mass of greenery. More than just an ephemeral "fashion-plate," Manet's archetypal Spring was conceived as a picture for the ages, summarizing his modern epoch through the figure of a beautiful Parisienne.


Paul Gauguin,
Arii Matamoe (The Royal End)

Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Harold M. Williams Auditorium

Paul Gauguin painted this startling painting of a decapitated human head during his first stay in Polynesia in the early 1890s. Real events, from Tahitian King Pomare V's death soon after Gauguin's arrival, to the artist having witnessed a public execution by guillotine several years earlier, likely influenced its dark subject matter.

The notion of a human head ritually displayed in an ornate interior suggests the formality of a ruler lying in state, supported by the presence of sorrowful figures in the background. In his collage-illustrated book Noa Noa—which Gauguin began after his first trip to Tahiti—he included a copy of this painting and a comment that he thought of Pomare's death as a metaphor for the loss of native culture due to European colonization.


Paul Cézanne,
Young Italian Woman at a Table

Date: Thursday, March 3, 2016
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: Harold M. Williams Auditorium

Resting her head in her hand, this young woman looks out with an enigmatic expression. Since the Renaissance, artists have used this pose to portray melancholy. The pose, combined with woman's unreadable face, gives a human poignancy and psychological tension to the figure. Questions about the space around the woman created by Cezanne's unusual composition add tension to the human drama.

About Richard Brettell
Richard Brettell is the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies and the Edith O'Donnell Distinguished University Chair at the University of Texas in Dallas. He is among the world's foremost authorities on Impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930. His museum exhibition work includes Monet in Normandy (for the de Young Museum in San Francisco) and The Impressionist in the City: Pissarro's Series (for the Dallas Museum of Art). He has given scholarly lectures at numerous museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, and has written over 25 books, including Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860-1890.

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