Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art
from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
A Sporting Vision: The Paul Mellon Collection of British Sporting Art
from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
February 2–May 5, 2019
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (December 5, 2018)—The Frist Art Museum presents Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and A Sporting Vision: The Paul Mellon Collection of British Sporting Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The two exhibitions will be on display in the Frist’s Ingram Gallery from February 2 through May 5, 2019.
Representing the extraordinary gifts made to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) by Paul and Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon, the exhibitions include works by some of the most significant artists working in France and England in the 18th through 20th centuries and celebrate the connoisseurship and tastes of one of the great philanthropic and collecting couples of the 20th century.
Offering more than 70 works by masters such as Edgar Degas, Eugène Delacroix, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, and Vincent van Gogh, this exhibition provides consummate examples of 19th and early 20th century French art. With its core of Impressionist paintings, the collection also comprises masterpieces from every important school of French art, from Romanticism to Cubism. These works represent more than 150 years of French art and exemplify the Mellons’ personal vision and highly original strategies, which provide a context for understanding this unique collection of French art.
“In addition to acquiring canonical works by modern masters, the Mellons had an eye for their more intimate creations,” says Frist Art Museum chief curator Mark Scala. “Mr. Mellon wrote, ‘My own feeling is that size has nothing to do with the quality and importance of a work of art, just as a preliminary drawing or sketches in oil or pastel often have an immediacy and an emotional appeal far greater than the final canvas.’”
Paul Mellon was the son of industrialist, banker, and politician Andrew Mellon, himself a distinguished art collector and benefactor who was instrumental in the creation of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1937. Over the years, Paul Mellon donated more than a thousand works from his father’s collection and his own to the National Gallery.
Bunny Mellon was both an art aficionado and a devoted Francophile. After the Mellons married, they began to acquire French works from the 19th and 20th centuries. While many were given or bequeathed to the National Gallery, Paul Mellon donated selections from the French collection to the VMFA—where he was a longtime trustee—along with major gifts of British and American art.
The exhibition is organized thematically and includes sections on French equestrian art, human figures and portraits, and Impressionist and Post-Impressionist landscapes. The final section, titled “The Transformation of the Ordinary,” contains large, iconic paintings that stand out from the intimate sensibility of the rest of the collection. “These large works indicate the bold directions that modern art would take in the 20th century,” says Scala. “Rousseau’s Tropical Landscape (1910) anticipates the Expressionist and Surrealist notions that nonacademic art, folk expressions in particular, contained a fundamental truth about humanity’s natural condition. The latest work in the exhibition, Picasso’s Cubist still life The Chinese Chest of Drawers (1953), typifies the avant-garde’s willingness to break down preconceived notions and stylistic boundaries in pursuit of new expressions.”
While on view at the Frick Pittsburgh, the exhibition broke all-time attendance records, according to museum officials. “The exhibition is notable as a summary of the Mellons’ intuition, connoisseurship, and creativity, and also conveys their deep pleasure at having lived with these works for many years and even greater delight in giving them to the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia, who are now sharing this collection on a national tour,” says Scala.
With representative masterpieces of the sporting art genre from the 18th through the 20th century—including works by Sir Francis Grant, John Frederick Herring, Benjamin Marshall, George Morland, and George Stubbs—this outstanding collection of more than 65 works set in pastoral environments features depictions of horse racing, hunting, fishing, and farming. “The works are charming in their own right and also serve as windows into the world of the rural English gentry—its class structures, customs, and diversions,” says Scala.
A Sporting Vision proposes a fresh look at sporting art within wider social and artistic contexts, including the scientific and industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, the transformation of the British countryside, the treatment of horses and other animals, and society’s changing habits and customs.
A graduate both of Yale College and the University of Cambridge in England, Paul Mellon developed an interest in British art that would continue throughout his life. Mellon admired and often emulated the lifestyle and traditions of the landed gentry in England and had an abiding passion for fox hunting and training thoroughbreds. In 1966, he funded the establishment of the Yale Center for British Art, to which he gave a vast collection of artworks and rare books.
The exhibition is organized thematically and introduces the genre through the career of George Stubbs, who is considered the greatest practitioner of British sporting art and renowned for the elegant naturalism of his animal portraits. The section “In Pursuit” includes paintings of hunting, shooting, and fishing by Sir Francis Grant, Benjamin Marshall, Sir Alfred Munnings and others that illustrate the evolution of the hunt and its social impact over almost two hundred years. “In Motion” is dedicated to racing and carriage horses, including John Wootton’s monumental depictions of Arabian stallions. “Animal, Man, Country” examines representations of human and animal relationships to each other and to their environment and includes works commissioned to record specialized breeding practices and natural history, such as George Garrard’s A Barbary Antelope and a Black Swan (1811). The final section, “The World Upside Down,” shows humorous pratfalls occurring during outdoor pursuits that encourage a view of sport as free play, where anything can happen.
Exhibitions organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Thursday, February 7 Lecture
6:30 p.m. A Magnificent Legacy: French Art in the Mellon
Frist Art Museum Auditorium Collection presented by Kimberly A. Jones, curator of
Free; first come, first seated 19th-century French paintings, National Gallery of Art
Offering more than seventy works by masters from every important school of French art, from Romanticism through the School of Paris, Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of French 19th- and early 20th-century art to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In this lecture, Kimberly A. Jones will explore the tradition of philanthropy that motivated the creation of their renowned collection, told through the story of the Mellons’ love for French art.
Kimberly A. Jones received her PhD from the University of Maryland in 1996. A former museum fellow at the Musée national du château de Pau and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, she joined the curatorial staff of the National Gallery of Art in 1995.
Tuesdays, February 19 and 26 Art History Course: The Radical Vision of 19th- and March 5 Century French Artists presented by Mishoe
6:00–7:30 p.m. Brennecke, professor of art history,
Frist Art Museum Rechter Room University of the South
Price per class: $12 members; $15 not-yet members
Price for the entire course: $30 members; $40 not-yet-members (register for all three classes at the same time, using the discount code ALL3)
Visit FristArtMuseum.org/arthistory to sign up. Registration required by February 6.
In this three-part course, learn about the movements and styles in French art represented in Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art. Each class is a standalone offering that can be taken by itself or in conjunction with the others.
February 19: Origins of French Impressionism
February 26: French Impressionism
March 5: Beyond French Impressionism
Mishoe Brennecke is a professor of art history at the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. Brennecke earned her MA in art history from Columbia University and her PhD in art history from the City University of New York. She specializes in American and European art of the 19th century and teaches courses in American, British, and French art of the late 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Her current research focuses on the life and work of Johannes Oertel, a 19th-century German American painter. She is working on a catalogue of the large collection of Oertel’s paintings owned by the University of the South.
Thursday, February 28 Curator’s Tour
Noon Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon
Meet at the exhibition entrance Collection of French Art and A Sporting Vision: The Paul
Free to members; admission required for Mellon Collection of British Sporting Art presented by not-yet-members Mark Scala, chief curator
A Members-Only Curator’s Tour will be held on Friday, March 1, at noon.
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gifts to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts include works from such renowned artists as Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Vincent van Gogh, along with representative masterpieces of British sporting art by Benjamin Marshall and George Stubbs. Join Mark Scala as he takes a closer look at some exhibition highlights in this one-hour tour.
Sunday, March 3 Film: National Velvet
Frist Art Museum Auditorium
Free; first come, first seated
Set in 1920s England, National Velvet follows young Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor), a former jockey (Mickey Rooney), and a rebellious horse called “The Pie” as they attempt to beat the odds and win the Grand National Steeplechase. This is a heartwarming story about dreams, determination, and breaking stereotypes. Based on the novel by Enid Bagnold, National Velvet is preserved in the National Film Registry as one of the most significant movies produced in the United States. Directed by Clarence Brown, 1944. 123 minutes. G. Popcorn will be provided. Other snacks and beverages may be purchased in the Frist Art Museum café.
Friday, March 29 Frist Friday
Details will be posted at
Experience Frist Art Museum exhibitions in new and unexpected ways at Frist Fridays. Join us for an evening of extraordinary music and art, with live performances, interactive gallery activities, food and drink specials, and more.
Van Gogh and Sporting Vision Platinum Sponsor: HCA Foundation on behalf of HCA Healthcare/TriStar Health
Van Gogh Gold Sponsor: H.G. Hill
Van Gogh and Sporting Vision Hospitality Sponsor: Union Station Hotel
Sporting Vision Supporting Sponsor: The Horatio B. and Willie D. Buntin Foundation
This exhibition is supported in part by our 2019 Frist Gala Patrons and the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Buddy Kite: 615.744.3351, bkite@FristArtMuseum.org
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, epryor@FristArtMuseum.org
About the Frist Art Museum
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Art Museum’s newly renovated Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Art Museum exhibitions. Information on accessibility can be found at FristArtMuseum.org/accessibility. Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and for members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounts with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, café, and gift shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the café opening at noon. For additional information, call 615.244.3340 or visit FristArtMuseum.org.