Marmottan Monet Museum presents Henri Edmond Cross and Neo Impressionism. Seurat to Matisse

The Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris presents Henri Edmond Cross and Neo Impressionism. Seurat to Matisse on view to 19 February 2012.

The exhibition traces the evolution of the work of Henri Edmond Cross (1856-1910) in the context of work by other members of the Neo-Impressionist movement, highlight- ing Cross’s network of friends, influences and followers from his Paris years with Seurat, Signac and the other ‘Neos’, to the last 20 years of his life (1892-1910), when he settled in Saint-Clair, near his friend Signac in Saint-Tropez – the rallying point for a new genera- tion of artists, where Matisse and the future Fauves discovered and experimented with the principles of ‘divisionism’.

Henri Edmond Cross, Les Vendanges [Grape harvest] – 1891-1892 – Oil on canvas – 94.9 x 140 cm – Signed and dated bottom left: Henri Edmond Cross 1892 – Private collection – © D.R.

The exhibition gathers some one hundred oil paintings and watercolours from private collections and museums worldwide (Germany, Belgium, Japan, the USA…), including pivotal works in the history of Neo-impressionism, never before seen in public.

The first part of the exhibition presents paintings by members of the first Neo-Impres- sionist group (Cross, Signac, Dubois-Pillet, Pissarro, Luce, Van Rysselberghe), pioneers of the movement’s painstaking ‘divisionist’ technique, based on the optical blending of small strokes of pure prismatic colour, contrasting tones, and the use of colour complementaries. The exhibition continues with an exploration of the parallel careers of Cross, Signac and Van Rysselberghe – and the revelation of colour witnessed in their paintings – as the start- ing point for the ‘second’ Neo-Impressionist movement, featuring thicker touches of colour, and a more strident palette. The final section highlights the links between Cross and a younger generation of painters – including Camoin, Manguin and Henri Matisse – establishing him as a unique, essential link between Seurat’s Divisionism and the Fauvist movement pioneered by Matisse and Derain. The exhibition also highlights Cross’s watercolour paintings, an important feature of his work throughout his career.

Organised in association with the Musée Départemental Matisse in Cateau-Cambrésis, part of the exhibition at the Musée Marmottan Monet will transfer to Matisse’s home town, from 12 March to 10June, 2012.

The partner exhibitions each feature the same core body of work, together with their own selections of paintings, many on public show for the first time, shedding new light on Cross’s work and (re)introducing the artist to a wider international audience. By comparing Cross’s paintings with those of his contemporaries – Seurat, Signac, Luce, Van Rysselberghe, Camoin, Matisse and others – both exhibitions will highlight the distinctive, poetic quality of his work, and demonstrate his importance and decisive influence in the context of modern art as a whole.

The current exhibition owes its genesis to an earlier exhibition of watercolours by Henri Edmond Cross, organised by Paris gallerist Françoise Chibret in 2008. I was immediately fascinated by the work of this comparatively little-known artist, and decided to organize an exhibition of his paintings, in the context of the other Neo-Impressionists, some of whom – like Paul Signac – were among his closest friends and associates: a chance to discover Cross’s work, for many, or to revisit it in a new light, for some. And an opportunity, I hope, to establish this key figure and his harmonious, colourful mosaics, in their rightful place in the mainstream of the history of modern art. –

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