Winter can be dreary but thanks to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., we have the French, newly "reframed", to cheer us up on Leap Day.
Two years ago, the NGA undertook to renovate and restore its galleries of prized Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artworks by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, and Paul Gaugin. (The permanent collection numbers nearly 400 paintings, including major holdings from the Joseph Widener bequest of 1942 and the Chester Dale Collection given to the museum in 1962.) In late January, the museum announced the reopening of those galleries, celebrating the weekend of January 28 with a festival of French music from the 1870s, a screening of French CanCan (Jean Renoir, 1954), and a lecture about the "new look" with Mary Morton, curator and head of the department of French paintings. The museum plans a two-day public symposium on the reinstallation for April 27 and April 28. (For other related events, go here.)
In the NGA's reconceived design for the galleries in its West Building, the masters' paintings have been reinstalled in thematic, monographic, and art historical groups. One installation, for example, features avant-garde Paris circa 1900, as represented in the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Amadeo Modigliani, and Henri Rousseau, while another combines Cezanne's landscapes, still lifes, and figure paintings.
As part of the initiative, the NGA restored 13 artworks, including Renoir's well-known and popular A Girl with a Watering Can (1876) and Monet's The Bridge at Argenteuil (1874). And on view for the first time is Gustave Courbet's The Black Rocks at Trouville (1865-1866).
If you can't get to D.C. to see the renovated galleries, do the next best thing and explore some of the links above and below. Even virtually, the paintings will inspire and delight, no matter the day's temperature.
Checklist of Paintings, Gallery by Gallery
Don't-Miss Online Resources
The Collection: French Painting of the 19th Century ~ Beginning with a brief overview, this resource includes a selection of online "tours", in some cases with audio: Manet and His Influence, The Beginnings of Impressionist Landscape, Impressionism, Postimpressionism, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gaugin, Mary Cassatt: Selected Paintings, Mary Cassatt, August Renoir, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Romantics and Realists. Also available are several in-depth examinations of the work of Edgar Degas (The Dance Lesson) and Edouard Manet (The Railway, The Dead Toreador and The Bullfight, small French paintings from the Ailsa Mellon Bruce and Paul Mellon collections), and a virtual Van Gogh exhibition, "Van Gogh's Van Goghs: Masterpieces from the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam").
Picturing France, 1830-1900 ~ Created for NGA Classroom, this is a downloadable educational resource about 19th Century painting in France, organized by region and showcasing more than 50 works of art.