Masterpieces from the Musée Fabre in Montpellier

26 January 2006 - 4 June 2006

Fondation de l'Hermitage, Lausanne

Since 2003, the Musée Fabre has embarked on an ambitious policy of expansion and refurbishment of its exhibition space, with the aim of showcasing its extraordinary collections to the best possible effect. The Fondation de l'Hermitage in Lausanne has chosen to take advantage of the museum's closure during this renovation programme, to present a selection of works from museum's superb collection.

The exhibition opens with works by the leading masters of the 17th century, and goes on to explore the full scope of the European schools, from the evocative mysticism of Zurbaran's ecstatic figures (the Angel Gabriel, St Agatha), to the powerful psychological presence of Bourdon's elegant portraits (Man with Black Ribbons), and the fantastical bravura of Flemish artists such as Bruegel the Younger or Rubens, in striking contrast to the delicate, intimate genre scenes of the Golden Age of Dutch painting (Steen, Metsu, Ter Borch). The exhibition goes on to trace the majestic style of French painting in the 18th century, from the Régence to the Revolution, together with elegant marble sculptures by Houdon, or the voluptuous drapery of Ranc (Vertumna and Pomona). The 19th-century paintings are another highlight of the exhibition, notably thanks to the inclusion of works from the collection of Alfred Bruyas (1821-1877), a passionate collector of works by the leading artists of his day, who brought the museum into the modern era with his donation of paintings by Delacroix, the leader of the Romantic school, whose sumptuous Orientialist scenes conjure the magical light and colour of the Maghreb and the East (Moroccan Military Exercises). Courbet's vigorous masterpiece, the Seashore at Palavas, testifies to the central importance of his work in the Musée Fabre's collection, and anticipates the rise of the independent schools in France, towards the end of the 19th century. An important selection of works by the Barbizon School (Corot, Rousseau) leads on to paintings by the Impressionists (Monet, Degas and above all the Montpellier-born artist, Bazille). Widely regarded as the precursor of the new Impressionist aesthetic Bazille's paintings include flower pieces, landscapes and portraits, in a direct, understated style. The exhibition concludes with a superb collection of master drawings – of which the Musée Fabre holds one of the finest collections in France. From La Hyre to Puvis de Chavannes, via Fragonard, Boucher or Géricault, the works on display represent some of the finest examples of the art of drawing known today.