Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco director welcomes exhibit 

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Musée d’Orsay are proud to present the initial installment of what is certain to become one of the premier cultural events of the decade. “Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay” is the first of two consecutive exhibitions drawn from the Orsay’s incomparable collection that are traveling to the de Young Museum in 2010.

Rarely do renovations at the world’s greatest museums create an opportunity for those collections to travel beyond their home cities. Refurbishment and upgrading of the Orsay’s Impressionism and Post-Impressionism galleries have provided just such an occasion, allowing museumgoers outside France to thrill to the artistic riches of the world’s foremost collection of 19th and early 20th-century French painting. Given San Francisco’s longtime commitment to exhibiting and collecting Impressionism and other great movements of European art, we are extremely excited that the de Young will be the only venue in the world to present both exhibitions.

The first exhibition, “Birth of Impressionism,” focuses on the tumultuous period of the 1860s and 1870s when social and political events in France influenced and were reflected in the art and politics of the state-run Salon. Nearly one hundred canvases by famous masters provide an overview of the contentious artistic community that gave rise to the innovators of the “New Painting.” The evolution of the Impressionist style is traced via seminal works of the period, providing an unparalleled visual experience possible only when the most important repository of nineteenth-century French art opens its vaults.

The second installment of our celebration — “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay,” opening at the de Young in September — explores the major artistic developments that sprang forth in the wake of Impressionism, including beloved paintings by the Neo-Impressionists, Symbolists and Nabis.

It has been a great pleasure and honor for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco to collaborate with the Musée d’Orsay on these two unique, once-in-a-lifetime exhibitions. We hope you enjoy them.

John E. Buchanan

Director of Museums

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

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