Cézanne to Picasso
Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde
September 14, 2006–January 7, 2007
This is the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to Ambroise Vollard (1866–1939)—the pioneer dealer, patron, and publisher who played a key role in promoting and shaping the careers of many of the leading artists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It includes one hundred paintings, as well as dozens of ceramics, sculpture, prints, and livres d'artistes commissioned and published by Vollard, dating from the time of his appearance on the Paris art scene in the late 1880s to his death in 1939.
The exhibition features works by Bonnard, Cézanne, Degas, Derain, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Maillol, Matisse, Picasso, Redon, Renoir, Rouault, Rousseau, Vlaminck, Vuillard, and others. Highlights include five paintings from Vollard's landmark 1895 Cézanne exhibition; a never-before-reassembled triptych from his 1896–97 Van Gogh retrospective; the masterpiece Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? from Vollard’s 1898 Gauguin exhibition; paintings from Picasso's first French exhibition (1901) and Matisse's first solo exhibition (1904); and three pictures from Derain's London series, painted in 1906–07 at Vollard's suggestion. The exhibition also includes numerous portraits of Vollard by leading artists, among them Cézanne, Bonnard, Renoir, and Picasso. Whether it was commissioned, exhibited, or owned by him, each of these works at one time passed through Vollard's hands.
Ambroise Vollard was a legend in his own lifetime. In 1887, at the age of twenty-nine, he arrived in Paris from Ile-de-la-Réunion, a remote French colony east of Madagascar, and soon made his reputation by presenting a Paul Cézanne retrospective that was possibly the most important exhibition of the 1890s. Cézanne's work was virtually unknown in Paris at the time, and Vollard took a significant financial risk in showcasing the 150 paintings that he displayed. The exhibition proved to be a success; many of the works sold, Cézanne's place in the pantheon of modern art was firmly established, and Vollard soon became the leading contemporary art dealer of his generation. He had a unique—some thought eccentric—approach to selling art, frequently dozing in his gallery, making a point of not showing his clients what they asked to see, and concealing most of his paintings behind a divider at the back of his shop. As the principal dealer of Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and a number of Fauve artists, as well as an early supporter of the Nabis, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso, Vollard played a key role in shaping the history of modern art.