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Walters Art Museum announces Near Paris. The Watercolors of Leon Bonvin

Submitted by on January 23, 2012 – 4:58 pm

The Walters Art Museum presents Near Paris: The Watercolors of Léon Bonvin an exhibition on view February 25–May 20, 2012.


Léon Bonvin, Still Life with Basket of Oranges, 1863, watercolor with gum heightening, iron gall ink and pen, over graphite underdrawing on slightly textured, moderately thick, cream laid paper, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (37.1524)

In the five years leading up to his suicide in 1866, Léon Bonvin created a series of melancholy yet luminous watercolors of flowers, fruits and the countryside around his café-bar on the outskirts of Paris. Burdened by debts, at the age of just 32, Bonvin hung himself in woods near his home. Within days, the prices of his paintings doubled and continued to rise as collectors, including most prominently William T. Walters, sought to acquire the few remaining works available on the market.

The decades that followed saw a myth develop that told of a tragic and misunderstood artist, self-taught and laboring against the odds to pursue the art he loved. That myth endures, but we are now in a position to reevaluate it. Although the truth about Bonvin’s life cannot be recovered from surviving documents, new research suggests that, far from working in isolation, the artist communicated with the Parisian art world and that his work was in tune with contemporary artistic trends. Rarely shown because of the delicacy of the medium, this exhibition showcases 19 exquisite watercolors selected from the leather-bound album in which Walters lovingly enshrined them. Thanks to Walters’ enthusiasm for the artist, the Walters Art Museum has the largest holding of Bonvin’s works in any public collection.

General museum information call 410-547-9000 or visit www.thewalters.org

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