The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism – Exhibition at de Young Museum in San Francisco, September 15, 2012 to December 30, 2012

I went to this exhibition today with my brother who is visiting the Bay Area from Australia.  As he is a fan of Impressionism, of course we cannot miss this exhibition.    On this post, I am quoting the introduction about this exhibition from the site of de Young Museum, and also two reviews from SF Chronicle.

The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism: Paintings, sculpture and works on paper. Through Dec. 30. De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, S.F. (415) 750-3600.

The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism.

The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism

Left: Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906), Milk Can and Apples, 1879–80. Oil on canvas, 19 3/4 x 24 inches. SPC6.1990. Right: Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903), Seed of the Areoi, 1892. Oil on burlap, 36 1/4 x 28 3/8 inches.

“The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism

September 15, 2012 – December 30, 2012

A selection of major works from the William S. Paley Collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York will be featured in an exhibition opening this fall. A pioneering figure in the modern entertainment, communication and news industries, Mr. Paley (1901–1990) was a founder of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and a dedicated philanthropist and patron of the arts. The Paley Collection, which includes paintings, sculpture and drawings, ranges in date from the late 19th century through the early 1970s. Particularly strong in French Post-Impressionism and Modernism, the collection includes multiple works by Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, as well as significant works by Edgar Degas, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, Andre Derain, Georges Rouault and artists of the Nabis School such as Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard.

Among the works that will be exhibited at the de Young are Gauguin’s The Seed of the Areoi (1892), an important female nude from the artist’s first trip to Tahiti; Cezanne’s Milk Can and Apples (1879-80); Degas’ exquisite pastelTwo Dancers (1905); Derain’s dynamic Fauve painting Bridge over the Riou (1906); Picasso’s celebrated Boy Leading a Horse (1905-06); Matisse’s masterpiece Woman with a Veil (1927) and Francis Bacon’s Study for Three Heads (1962).

Organized by The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Major Patron is The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund. Additional support is from the Estate of Henry Perin, Andy and Carrick McLaughlin, and Jeanne and Sanford Robertson. Media sponsor is CBS 5, KPIX-TV. Supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.”

The first review I would like to quote here is from Steven Winn who is a free lance writer.

CBS Paley put new face on art collecting

Steven Winn

Updated 10:24 a.m., Thursday, September 13, 2012
  • Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881Ð1973)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Boy Leading a Horse<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Paris, 1905Ð1906<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Oil on canvas<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
86 7/8 in. x 51 5/8 in. (220.6 x 131.2 cm)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York Photo: The William S. Paley Collection, MOMA / SF
    Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881Ð1973) Boy Leading a Horse Paris, 1905Ð1906 Oil on canvas 86 7/8 in. x 51 5/8 in. (220.6 x 131.2 cm) The William S. Paley Collection, courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York Photo: The William S. Paley Collection, MOMA / SF

“As co-founder and chief architect of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), William S. Paley built one of the mightiest media empires of the 20th century. The son of a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant whose successful cigar company financed the purchase of 16 Philadelphia-area radio stations in the 1920s, Paley (1901-1990) went on to fuse news and entertainment into a powerful engine of commerce and influence.

He was driven, demanding, rich, charming – especially to women – and fastidious about everything from the decor of his sprawling Fifth Avenue apartment to the make of his fountain pens. Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, became Paley’s personal publicist in 1929, long before image management was routine.

When it came to collecting art, a pursuit he took up avidly in his mid-30s, Paley had a lot to learn. Before his first wife, Dorothy Hart Hearst, and friends like Averell Harriman began introducing him to the European Impressionists and Postimpressionists, the CBS mogul’s tastes ran to the sort of framed hunting scenes found in private men’s clubs and upscale steak houses.

But Paley, just as he was in the broadcasting business, proved to be a quick study. Once he’d bought his first major painting, Cézanne’s sunny but penetrating “Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat,” in 1935, Paley moved assertively. He acquired Matisses and Renoirs, Gauguins and Vuillards, Degas drawings and Rodin bronzes. A $25,000 price tag for a Cézanne landscape, steep as that was in 1933, didn’t faze him.

Paley’s considerable ego apparently didn’t let facts get in the way of a good story, either. His claim that he had persuaded Matisse to sell him a particular painting, for instance, was subsequently contradicted by Hart Hearst, who insisted that her ex-husband had never met the artist face to face.

In the crowning glory of his collection, Paley purchased “Boy Leading a Horse,” one of Picasso’s defining Rose Period works. That great, gracefully muscular 1906 painting goes on display here this week, along with some 60 other pieces, when “The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism” opens at the de Young Museum.

For Timothy Anglin Burgard, curator in charge of American art, the touring Paley show is not only an opportunity to display some fabulous art at the de Young, but also an occasion to reflect on the nature and civic character of collectors like Paley.

“He represents,” says Burgard, “an older school of philanthropy in this country, alongside Andrew MellonWalter Annenberg and Phyllis Wattis in San Francisco, who felt a political, social and cultural responsibility to give back to their cities.” After contemplating a museum inside CBS’ “Black Rock” headquarters in Manhattan to house his collection, Paley bequeathed it to the Museum of Modern Art, where he had served as a trustee starting in 1937, president (1968-72) and chairman (1972-85).

William S. Rubin, former MOMA director, saw in Paley’s penchant for collecting modern art, as opposed to old masters, the expression of a man “whose achievement and wealth arose from new technologies.” Paley’s choices, he said, sprang from “a sensuous, aesthetic delight” and were “entirely personal.”

Burgard concurs, pointing to a Derain painting of two actors (“The Rehearsal”) and a Rouault clown, both of which speak to Paley’s immersion in public performance. Even more striking, perhaps, is a pair of Francis Bacon triptychs that could be read as particularly vivid film strips or distorted TV talent head shot”

The second review I am quoting is written by Kenneth Baker.

A Taste for Modernism Review, Artistry, Flair

Kenneth Baker

Updated 5:41 p.m., Friday, September 14, 2012
  • "Bridge Over the Riou" (1906), oil on canvas by Andre Derain from the William S. Paley collection at the de Young. Photo: Unknown / SF

    “Bridge Over the Riou” (1906), oil on canvas by Andre Derain from the William S. Paley collection at the de Young.

    Photo: Unknown / SF

“The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism,” opening at the de Young Museum on Saturday, makes a glorious and inviting first impression.

In a room with viridian walls and subdued, focused lighting, Paul Gauguin‘s Tahitian picture “The Seed of the Areoi” (1892) hangs by itself on a freestanding panel, visible as soon as a visitor goes past the exhibition ticket area.

A portrait of the painter’s teenage islander wife in a landscape lush with color and vague on detail, it foreshadows what lies ahead: painters playing free with form and color, determined either to reanimate their tradition or dispose of it.

In the last of the show’s four large rooms, “Bridge Over the Riou” (1906), possibly André Derain‘s greatest picture, also stands alone, embodying Gauguin’s liberating effect on successors’ thinking about color as well as any single canvas could.

Between these punctuating pictures the visitor experiences greatest hits, near misses and a little whiplash of deja vu: Two major paintings here by Pablo Picasso, the Rose Period “Nude With Joined Hands” (1906) and a classic of analytic Cubism, “The Architect’s Table” (1912), appeared in the great 2011 exhibition “The Steins Collect” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The collection formed by William S. Paley (1901-1990), a founder of CBS and longtime trustee and officer of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, presented the de Young’s exhibition designers with peculiar problems. Neither the chronology of his acquisitions nor that of the works he collected suggested an obvious sequence of presentation. So the visitor experiences passages burning with artistry, such as the opening cluster of works by Gauguin, Édouard ManetPaul CézanneAlberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, interrupted occasionally by slack performances such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir‘s “Strawberries” (c. 1905).

That tabletop still life is about as good a Renoir as one could hope to see, but in this context, it puts the Impressionist favorite in the second rank.

Auguste Rodin, a giant already familiar to regular visitors to the Legion of Honor and Stanford’s Cantor Center, marks the high points in the small selection of sculpture on view.

How much more powerful an experience “A Taste for Modernism” might have made with a little more editing. The present selection comes to the de Young chosen by Lilian Tone of MOMA and not subject to revision.

It is informative to see across the room from Derain’s “Bridge Over the Riou” his 1933 theatrical picture “The Rehearsal,” surely one of his worst. How could the same collector admire both? Or did the later one interest Paley as an example of what can happen when a revolutionary artist turns reactionary?

The exhibition offers numerous more pleasant surprises, such as discovering that George Braque’s tiny “Still Life on a Mantelpiece” (1920) outweighs, in every way that matters to the eye, Picasso’s imposing “Nude With Joined Hands,” in whose shadow it hangs.

And talk about surprising reweightings: Nothing in the Paley collection, not even the several great Edgar Degas drawings on an adjacent wall, has more credibility as a portrait than Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Madame Lili Grenier” (1888). Its astounding descriptive flair reawakens the thought that, as Michael Fried put it many years ago, sometime after the turn of the 20th century “reality withdrew from the power of painting to represent it.”

Henri Matisse emerges as the star of “A Taste for Modernism” for his ability to retune his work again and again, from the tentative “The Musketeer” (1903) to full-throated yet still intimate exercises in different keys such as the 1918 “Landscape,” “Odalisque With a Tambourine” (1925-26) and “Seated Woman with a Vase of Narcissus.”

“A Taste for Modernism” really is more about one collector’s quite sophisticated taste in art than a capsule survey of a period or tendency. Its true aim may be less to educate the de Young’s constituency – though we can never see eyes-on too much canonical painting – than to tweak the competitive impulses of potential future benefactors to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.”

Which one is my favorite?  It is Picasso’s Boy Leading a Horse. According to Wikipedia, this painting was influenced by El Greco and Paul Cezanne. I am not surprised.  Picasso’s Les Demoiselles Avignon is also influenced by El Greco’s Opening of the Fifth Seal

Please see below about:

Boy Leading a Horse – Wikipedia


A man and a horse and rider, see text.
El GrecoSaint Martin and the Beggar, c. 1597-1600Art Institute of Chicago
A picture of an young man outdoors, see text.
Paul CézanneBather, 1885-1887, Museum of Modern Art, formerly collection Lillie P. Bliss
This exhibition at de Young Museum has many impressive paintings from Museum of Modern Art.  I had seen most of them there, but really treasured the opportunity to appreciate them again today.  I was a bit surprised that there was only a small crowd today, comparing to last year’s Steins Collection in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.  After the visit today I am still scratching my head:  Is it because of Woody Allen’s movie Midnight of Paris which was being shown last year at the same time when the Steins Collection was exhibited, that both had become very successful, and yet this year, there isn’t any similar attraction?   Is it because de Young Museum is not as accessible as downtown SFMOMA? Or is it because there was free admission to the Academy of Science (across from the Museum) today, which attracted more visitors there?  Transportation is definitely one of the key reasons.  The traffic was so bad that we spent three hours for one way traveling.  There were many cars that could not find parking, even in the garage.  Other events around Golden Gate Park also happened at the same time.
Anyway, it is a good sign — if there are so many attractions in SF, it is a good thing.    I have read many posts from fellow bloggers that they think San Francisco is a great place to visit.  Yes, please come!  Tourism is very important to the economic recovery/development  of San Francisco, and art exhibition can be one of the attractions to tourists.
I hope this post which includes some description of the exhibition from the de Young Museum site and the two reviews from Kenneth Baker and Steven Winn , would attract some of you to visit San Francisco before the exhibition ends.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Clanmother says:

    There is always a story! We owe a great deal to the art collectors. Great post!!

  2. friendlytm says:

    Thanks so much for visiting the post, and again for your kind words about my blog.

I appreciate your comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s