Sarah Hall Blogs from Paris*

Frick Art & Historical Center Director of Curatorial Affairs Sarah Hall spent June 12–18, 2010 in Paris, where she visited colleagues and conducted research for an upcoming exhibition the Frick is organizing that examines the life and work of American artist Walter Gay (1856–1937). The Frick Art & Historical Center owns several Walter Gay paintings. Sarah traveled with the curator of the show, Dr. Isabel Taube, professor of art history at the School of Visual Arts, New York City and at Rutgers University, New Jersey.

Wrapping it all up, Sunday, June 20

I'm back in Pittsburgh and a nap would be nice. I came back to full-blown summer; it's scorching here.

I have my notes from Paris, my photos, and a need to give this experience some kind of conclusion. So, here's recap of my last two days in the City of Light.

Wednesday, my alarm didn't go off. (Later, while I'm at the Louvre, it does, of course; I set it for p.m. rather than a.m.) While I rush around getting ready, Isabel has discovered a fabulous breakfast place. Bread and Roses—where we share a brioche à l'ancienne, and fresh squeezed juice.

  Brioche

Wednesday is our "free" day, nothing specific planned related to Walter Gay. So we're going contemporary. We take the Metro to the Georges Pompidou Center.

The views from the Pompidou are fabulous (right), and I dutifully took some photos before heading into the collection. Looking at the Lucian Freud exhibition, and one floor of the permanent collection took us to lunchtime.

After lunch in their chic rooftop space, we looked at the other permanent collection space, devoted to an absorbing exhibition of work by women called Elles. 

  Georges Pompidou Center

 

It’s in the work of Karen Knorr that I found thoughts of Walter Gay entering my head. We talk about his paintings exploring the “poetics of space” and they often display a marvelous touch, and gorgeous sense of color and light that make his evocations of empty interiors allusive and evocative.

Fragonard Room  

We imagine the people and the lives that inhabited the rooms, and we know, that from our 21st-century perspective, there’s a sense of loss embodied in his paintings.

All these precious objects arranged so beautifully can’t halt the march of time, or the inevitability of change.  There’s a poignancy to the importance given to objects in these paintings, just because we know that these rooms either don’t exist, or are no longer actually lived in


Karen Knorr’s series, Gentleman, of which some images were featured at the Pompidou, evokes a similar sense of the past, but with a feminist and political  narrative. The richly decorated interiors in her photographs are populated by muddled characters hanging on to outdated values. A look at her website shows that she is fascinated by creating contemporary meaning in historic interiors and architectural spaces. 

We mused on some of these historic spaces when we left the Pompidou and walked past some of Paris’ famous Hotel Particulaires and Place de Vosge as we wandered through the Marais and stopped often to admire the shop windows. 

The Louvre is open until 10 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday, and since all I had done at the Louvre was behind the doors of the documentation area, I had saved Wednesday night for at least a couple hours of looking at paintings. Fortified by leftover brioche and tea, I walk from our hotel to the Louvre. I wanted to look at the Rococo artists, since we have a strong collection at the Frick, and I especially wanted to see the Le Nains—French brothers who painted during the Baroque period. As I make my way through the labyrinthine hallways, I find myself stopped in my tracks by an amazing Vermeer-like Hoogstraten.

Perhaps I am especially fascinated by interiors because of Walter Gay, but I find a Delacroix interior in my travels, as well L’appartement du comte de Mornay—a study for a setting for a portrait, but quite beautiful in it’s uninhabited state. I love Delacroix in general, but I find myself saturated with him. 

On the other hand, even with Corot after Corot, from portraits to feathery landscapes to the more sculptural rendering of form in his Italian work, I never reach the saturation point. On my way to the Le Nains, I pass in reverse chronology through the Rococo and see Watteau’s powerful Pierrot.

I also pass a nice section on the 18th-century pastel portrait, with many examples by Maurice Quentin de la Tour—the artist responsible for the portrait of Charles de la Condamine that I mentioned before. De la Tour’s self-portrait is amazing, comical, self-effacing, endearing, marvelous—for an artist known for his ability to capture immediacy and character, this is a tour de force.

I finally make my pilgrimage to the Le Nains. I say pilgrimage, because we have a tiny, beautiful Le Nain in our collection that I adore (right).

I love the tenderness of the observation, and I am intrigued by the mystery of the 3 brothers who signed their work only with the collective Le Nain. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with the book by Pierre Rosenberg Les Frères Le Nain, and even so, I was surprised by the size of the Louvre’s canvases. 

Even on a larger scale, the brothers paint with tenderness. The dramatic baroque lighting, and the humanity of the subject matter make these genre subjects powerful secular/religious works.

 

Le Nain


Thursday, back to work.

Since we had a 10:00 appointment at the Musée d’Orsay, we decided on a second morning at the lovely Bread and Roses for café au lait, and croissant au chocolate. The Orsay is only a twenty minute walk, and we meet with curator of paintings Isabelle Cahn. 

Isabel examines paintings  

Isabelle takes us first into storage to see the three Walter Gay paintings they have on site. 

It’s a bit of an odyssey to get to the storage area and sign in. And once there, everything is very familiar, Isabelle herself pulls out the heavy screens of paintings, and lugs the lighting around, and I remark at how many times I have done the same for visiting curators and scholars.

Two of the three paintings were especially beautiful—Blue and White, and Venetian Interior

After spending some time with the paintings, we went upstairs to the archives to examine the files. The files are actually fairly substantial and Isabel copied a number of articles to read more carefully later.

When we eat lunch at the Orsay’s restaurant, we are reminded of the Rococo revival that Walter Gay was a part of—here we sit, in 2010, in a room decorated 100 years earlier, to look like it was made in the 18th century.

Then we spend time with the collection—if at the Louvre, Watteau’s Pierrot was astonishingly powerful, so too are the paintings you’d expect—Manet’s Olympia and Déjeuner, Millet’s Gleaners, the authority of Courbet—so many great paintings.

We were especially amazed by two galleries full of 19th-century pastels (many by Degas, whose pastels were admired by Walter Gay), and I personally love the full-length portrait by Monet of Madame Gaudibert.

After we left, the wind was wild and there was a bit of a drizzle, our coldest day of the week, we walked around the corner to the rue de l’Université to see Walter and Matilda Gay’s Paris residence beginning in 1910 (right). We duck under a doorway to stay dry while we get our cameras out.

We marvel at the wonderful location—in a neighborhood still filled with high-end galleries, decorating shops, and antique stores.

 

l'Universite


Parc Monceau

rue Daubigny

 

We stay on their trail the rest of the day—we struggle through the wind to our hotel to change out of work clothes and walk north, stopping at Parc Monceau, (top left) as we wound our way to rue Daubigny (center left), where Walter Gay had one of this studios, and 73 rue Ampère (below), where he and Matilda lived for about 20 years before rue de l’Université. We end up in a nice enclave of bustling shops and cafés where a younger student crowd seems to be the norm.

 

 

rue Ampere

We pick a restaurant for our last dinner together in Paris. We sit in cushioned chairs at a tiny table and watch the restaurant fill with young people coming together to watch the World Cup, greeting each other with bises.

Back at the hotel, I arrange a taxi for the morning. It’s still the coldest day of the week. In my room, I pack my bags with my coat on and the windows wide open, to let in the noise of the street, to feel a part of Paris a little longer.


line


Friday 6/18

My notes compiled in the Airport (where I was able to buy a brownie bio (biologique--organic) which tasted nothing like anything called a brownie in the U.S.

 

Today, we were among the first people to arrive at the café next door where we had the same, reliable croissant and café au lait.


View of the café
from my hotel room.

 

Cafe


Isabel

 

Our appointment was at 9:00 a.m. at the Musée Jaquemart-André, a house museum similar to the Frick, featuring the collection of Nélie Jacquemart and her husband Edouard André.

We were met by assistant curator Hélène Couot. I had sent her a description of our project and explained our main interest in advance. Walter Gay had painted interior views of the Jacquemart-André shortly after Nélie's death. Two of these paintings are in American museums—The Met and the Corcoran.


We wondered if perhaps there were photographs from the same period of the rooms, which would let us discover how much of Walter Gay's paintings were invented or adapted rather than observed. Isabel has always maintained that the paintings aren't strictly documentary, but rather interpretations of spaces.


Examining period photographs would help us prove that. Hélène was ready for us, with stacks of photos and a list of objects she had identified in the paintings. Once we spent time with the photos we headed to the actual rooms where she showed us the objects that were still on display. The word Hélène used was inspirée.

 

 

Isabel

Isabel compares the museum's images to those on her iPad.


Gay was not reproducing exactly what he saw, but rather was using it as inspiration. So a painting within his painting might be slightly enlarged, or, as is definitely the case in one of these paintings, a completely different fireplace was painted into the room and wall decorations were slightly altered.

Grand Salon  

 

 

The grand salon at the J-A. In this room, Gay Simplified the gilt boiserie on the walls, and also changed the fireplace.

 

After walking through and taking photos while the museum was closed, we said goodbye to Hélène and went through the collection on our own. (They have a Pater very similar to ours.)

Jean-Baptiste Pater (French, 1695–1736), Le Repos dans le Parc.
Oil on canvas. Frick Art & Historical Center 1970.44.

  Pater

Tearoom

 

The elegant café at the Jacquemart-André was our lunch spot. It had been the dining room of the house as well, and maintains that grandeur—which includes a Tiepolo ceiling.


Left: The ceiling of the tearoom, which also featured tapestry hung walls. I love the way the monkey's tail breaks out of the space. Below: The menu. I had the Nélie .

Menu


After our very productive morning, we decided to take the metro to the 16th arrondissement for our next meeting with a private collector. The plan was to get to the right neighborhood first and do things in that area until appointment time.

While waiting we walked down to the Eiffel Tower and did the tourist thing, climbed back up the steps to the Trocadero (where we passed a giant screen set up outdoors for communal World Cup watching).

  Eiffel Tower

Tart

 

Winding around these streets of the 16e, the many, many boutiques specializing in baby wear, children's clothes, and shoes clearly told us it was a neighborhood for young families.

A narrow side street (rue d'Anunciation) revealed a market area with all the necessary shops—fruits, vegetables, cheeses, pasta, chocolate.

Here we indulged in a tea break—complemented by a lovely chocolate éclair and an amazingly hefty slice of apricot pistachio tart (left).


Our appointment took us into a lovely brick home built in 1896. Inside we are offered champagne, and after a brief pause I respond with “it seems wrong to turn down champagne when it's offered in Paris.” So over champagne and cheese straws we discuss Walter Gay. He and his wife owned a château, Bréau, not far from Paris, which, like the house we are in, was occupied by Germans during WWII. The two Walter Gays we saw in this home were beautiful. One depicts the interior of artist Paul Helleu's house, with his collection of drawings lining the walls. I wish I could share pictures, but want to respect the privacy of the family we visited.

We're relentless walkers and decide to take the long walk back, by the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs Elysées. It's late and dinner is simple—Croque Monsieur sans jambon et avec tomates et frites.

 

 

Early in the day, we saw these good looking beasts in the park (Bois de Boulogne, I think) while walking before our appointment.

 

Horses and mules


Sunset  

 

 

 

 

 

A gorgeous sunset at about 10:15 p.m.

Thursday 6/17 12:09 a.m.

Uh-oh, that means I have some catching up to do on this trip journal, but I can, given the fact that it’s still Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

The weather predictions have all been wrong—it seems like every time I check the weather it says the next two days will be rainy, and then the next day there’s no rain. That’s nothing to complain about. Today was warm and I got some sunburn on my neck and shoulder, probably while eating lunch on the roof at the Pompidou Center. It’s windy up there! Or at least it was today, but that’s a story for later on.

It did rain once—pretty wildly—although I was completely unaware. We were ensconced in the research areas at the Louvre, and there were no windows. Isabel got up to make some photocopies and reported that she had walked past a window and the weather was wild. I never saw a drop of it, and it was over by the time we left the building. 

Galerie Vivienne  

The morning had begun with a lot of walking—I suspect everyone has a day like this once in a while when traveling—you have some place to go in mind, and when you get there it’s not quite what you wanted and so you wander perhaps a little too long, looking for a place that seems just right. This was one of those mornings.

Finally we settled on a place called A Priori Thé for scones for breakfast. It was located in Galerie Vivienne (left) —one of Paris’ historic covered shopping passages. The terrazzo floor reminded me of the terrazzo on the enclosed porch at Clayton.  


We had reserved the day for some research at the Louvre, but the areas with access to documentation of paintings and drawings don’t open until 2:00 p.m., which was a good thing, since we didn’t settle on those scones until 11:30.

After “breakfast” we gathered our things together and walked down early to the Louvre. In the courtyard we relaxed and watched a group of schoolchildren feeding the birds (right).

  Feeding birds


Porte des lions  

 

 

At 2:00 we entered the Porte des Lions (left),checked in with security for passes, and went first to the documentation area for painting.

There, we looked at inventory records for the Walter Gay paintings that were officially part of the Louvre’s collection (although they are on deposit at other national museums).

 

 

 

 

Isabel at the entrance to the Louvre's study center for the documentation of paintings.

If you look closely, you can see my reflection in the sign.

  Study Center

Isabel reading files  

The files were slim. The most information was related to Les Cigarières (Cigar Makers at Seville), a painting from 1894, which pretty much marked the end of his interest in genre painting.

It’s an interesting painting that depicts working women, one with a baby in a cradle beside her. It’s fascinating for its depiction of working mothers, but all the women are so pretty, that the entire scene feels a bit uncomfortable—it may be a social truth, but seems to be hardly a visual one.


After the painting department we went to drawings. This was a bit more complicated.

Sure, the Louvre has 3 works on paper by Walter Gay in their inventory, but, Walter Gay, at his death in 1937, left them 197 works on paper by many different artists that had been part of his personal collection.

Walter Gay's name is visible in the center

of this photo of the Louvre's donor wall.

  Walter Gay


It was these that interested us the most—getting a sense of his personality from the things he had owned and also trying to match specific works up with their depiction—hanging or casually propped on mantelpieces and tables in various paintings. We had spent part of our morning looking at the Louvre’s database together, trying to match specific drawings to images, and we found a few we were pretty certain matched up. These were the files we examined. I won’t tell you more, that’s for Isabel to do when she writes the exhibition catalogue essay.

Once we were done looking at the documentation, we headed to the graphic arts research area, where we met the Louvre’s curator, and were able to see the three drawings by Walter Gay in the collection. It probably goes without saying that the Louvre has a beautiful facility for research—in every way—it’s the Louvre, so there are bas relief panels on the wall, and sculpture in niches, monumental porcelains, and a painted ceiling. But, beyond that, the people were helpful, the administrative systems work, and the organization of materials was marvelous. 

Dinner at Sorza

 

After we left the Louvre we walked over to the Ile St. Louis, thinking we’d have ice cream. But, we realized all we’d eaten all day was scones, and so real food beckoned. 

We ate unfashionably early (left), but enjoyed every unfashionable bite. 

Dinner over early, and the Paris nights being long, we decided to continue our adventures. As we crossed the bridge to leave the Ile St. Louis, yes, someone was playing the accordion, La Vie en Rose, even. 

We decided to see if the building that housed Walter Gay’s first private studio was still in existence. Yes. We found 75 Boulevard de Clichy and walked around  the building wondering where the studio might have been.

The ground floor now houses a number of businesses, so what would have been the door on the Boulevard de Clichy side of the building is gone.  Nearby, he had apparently shared a studio earlier on a little dead-end street called Impasse Hélène. Although we found a Rue Hélène (which might have been an impasse in the 19th century), we did not find an impasse. The next morning Isabel asked me “How many miles do you think we walked last night?” No real answer. Several certainly, but thankfully, we both like seeing cities on foot.

On that long walk, I also crossed the Rue La Condamine. I love these French street signs, if you are wondering (as I was, and as I said to Isabel….) “Is that Charles Marie de la Condamine?”

Street sign  


Condamine

Maurice Quentin de la Tour (French, 17041788).

Portrait of Charles Marie de la Condamine, 1753. Pastel on paper. Frick Art & Historical Center 1970.40.

We have a wonderful portrait of him in our collection (above, right). He was a very interesting man who was part of an expedition that helped to measure the circumference of the earth, and did early research into smallpox vaccinating. The sign gives the answer Geodesian et Naturaliste. He’s our man. 

 

 

Cheese shop on the Ile St. Louis.

  Cheese shop

 

 

Another photo in the cheese shop.

  Cheese shop 2

 

 

One of the most beautiful places we've ambled by.

  Beautiful place

 

 

 

 

75 Blvd. de Clichy--Walter Gay's studio address. Prior to 1885, the building was known as the location of the studios of several American artists.

 
Photo 2

 

line


Tuesday, June 15, 12:19 a.m.
in which I recount some of Sunday’s adventures
.

Either Paris is too exciting for sleep, or I’m still experiencing jet lag. I have no interest in sleep.  So, here I am again with hotel room tea and a laptop. There is a café right next door, Café Madeleine, and I hear everyone with my window open. And I don’t mind since while I hear them laughing, I can picture them sitting with mostly empty glasses of wine and plates waiting to be cleared. It doesn’t get dark right now until a bit after 10:00, which makes for long days of exploring.

  Isabel

Yesterday, we had breakfast at the café next door—croissants and café au lait—and we’ll have the same in a few hours since we have a morning appointment. Our out-of-the-city Sunday adventure took us to the château at Fontainebleau (which Isabel is shown photographing above) —the metro to the Gare de Lyon, then half an hour of figuring out the trains (thankfully, I found a great website which talked us through the various train lines and which one we wanted).

Gare de Lyon is crowded and busy and was total chaos yesterday. Fontainebleau still appears to be a popular daytime escape from the city—there were lots of families with young children on the train and even some well-outfitted hikers. 

At the château, we were most interested in seeing the spaces Walter Gay had painted, Marie Antoinette’s boudoir and antechamber. To see these, we needed to do the self-guided audio tour. 


The forest at Fontainebleau was a royal hunting ground, and the chateau (http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr/)  is most famous for its Renaissance decorations.  François I hired Italian artists to oversee his decoration and it is one of the earliest French châteaux to have a sophisticated decorative scheme that combined architecture with interior decoration.

The artists (primarily working under Francesco Primaticcio 1504–1570) who worked on the château at this time are now collectively known as the School of Fontainebleau.

When you go through the gallery, the audioguide tells you that the gallery of François I is “incessantly” branded with his identity. I had to laugh out loud, because incessant is the perfect word.

The wood paneling features gilded “Fs” (For François, not Frick) appearing at intervals all over the room.

  Gallery of Francois

Salamander  

It also features a salamander motif recurring in many forms—as bas relief on chair backs (photo) and as sculptural elements over doors, and at the top of the wood paneling. There is incredible variety in the rendering of these salamanders, each has a distinct personality. (Although the chair backs repeat the same motif.)

You might think this salamander looks like a fire-breathing dragon, but the salamander was thought to be impervious to fire, so the flames represent this death-defying attribute. Because of this, the salamander was a symbol of royalty. 


Many generations of French royalty resided at Fontainebleau, as did Napoleon. And each seemed to need to put his own stamp on the building and its decoration, consequently, there is a mix of work made by artists and artisans up to the 19th century.


We found the rooms decorated especially for Marie Antoinette. Her boudoir at Fontainebleau is not a large room, but it’s precious in every sense. The paneling is carved and gilded with white and yellow gold. Delicate Renaissance style decorations, in soft hues of pink, blue, white and gold were painted on them.  

The entire effect is very feminine and creates an atmosphere of shimmering delicacy. Adding to the shimmer are two pieces of furniture by Jean-Henri Riesener (1734−1806) veneered with mother of pearl marquetry. Riesener was a master cabinet maker and in fact, Cabinet Maker to the King beginning in 1774

(http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artMakerDetails?maker=977).

 
Delicate painting
Desks

Jean Henri Riesener (French, 1734-1806).
Commode, c. 1775. Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, 1985.321.


Marie Leczinska

Jean-Marc Nattier (French, 1685-1766).
Marie Leczinska, Queen of France, 1753.
Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, 1977.1.


  I was happy to see this beautiful and unusual roll top desk built for the Queen
(left, above). We have a Riesener in our collection at the Frick (left, below), and while it’s not covered with shell, the intricacy of his work with wood veneers on our piece is similarly dazzling.

I may be trying my reader’s patience, since blogs are meant to be pithy, but I have one more Fontainebleau story.

Chapel

The last room on the tour is the chapel (above), and the audioguide tells the story of a young nervous bride who was married there—overheated, feeling ill and nearly fainting on her wedding day in 1725.

The bride was Marie Leczinska (left), and she was marrying Louis XV. I thought of the portrait of her in our galleries and tried to imagine her as a nervous 22 year old. She appears so gentle and self-assured in our portrait, but that comes, I suspect, with years of being the queen. 


The café has closed down, and so must I.


line

Sunday, June 13, 7:15 a.m. (Paris time)

I opened the curtains in my hotel room to see blue sky, streaked with the faint evidence of passing planes. The sun is hitting the façade of the Église de la Madeleine, delivery vans pass by my window, as do a few people on bicycles, a couple of motorbikes are parked nearby. It’s Sunday, and I think Parisians are making a slow start. I have day-old pastry (still amazingly delicious) and hotel room tea and my view. I had just about a full eight hours of sleep. Life is good.

Yesterday’s visit to the private collector reminded Isabel and me about how quickly history can unravel from broad, distant groups of facts into something more intimate—something that’s more like telling family stories over dinner. While visiting the apartment, we discovered while chatting that the apartment is, in fact, rented from the same family that Walter and Matilda Gay once rented from, descendents of the family who first rented the Gays the Château de Courances, and later sold them their Château Bréau. Name-dropping châteaux gets confusing enough to me, and I haven’t provided you much biographical background on Walter Gay, beyond the introductory material on this web page. A great book to read if you’re interested is A Charmed Couple: The Art and Life of Walter and Matilda Gay, by William Rieder.   

Today, no scheduled appointments, a more laid-back city, and the best weather predicted for the entire week.


Last night, over tapas in an amazing little wine bar,** we discussed our options for today —Vaux le Vicomte or Fontainebleau? Walter Gay painted interior views of both châteaux. By the end of our glasses of red, fabulous zucchini soup, tiny grilled potatoes, and crostini, we had decided on Fontainebleau—largely because of the nice weather and the walking/hiking trails. The forest at Fontainebleau is where so many of the Barbizon painters worked and were inspired by nature and each other. I’ve talked about it so often, and I’ve never been there. So today, in addition to following the trail of Walter Gay, our American expatriate artist, we follow the trail of Millet, and Rousseau, and Diaz, and others. But that’s France isn’t it? Last night, as we walked down the Boulevard des Capucines, Isabel tried to point out to me the angle that Monet captured in his Boulevard des Capucines painted from photographer Nadar’s studio. History and the immediate merge so seamlessly, you need a glass of red wine to unravel it all. Or café au lait and pastry works too, 


Juvenile’s—so perfect, small portions of delicious food, affordable wine, nice, nice people—did I say, so perfect?

So perfect it’s almost tempting to go back, even with the many fabulous places to choose from to eat and relax.  It felt like the kind of place where I would become an habituée, if I lived around the corner.

No wimpy wines at Juveniles!

 

Wines


line

Saturday, June 12, 9:30 p.m. (Paris time)


Well, right now Paris is the city that never sleeps. In an effort to push my body into the right schedule, I’ve now been up for 33 hours or so. 


In my cozy hotel listening to the night sounds of Paris through my window, I can tell you about day one in Paris. I had some fairly major flight delays out of Pittsburgh, but was just able to make my connection at JFK in time for boarding, where I met Isabel and, even with some further runway delays in New York, we made it to Paris in time, 7:30 a.m. Paris time, now 14 hours ago. We’ve done quite a bit already.

We’ve had two wonderful meals, a visit with a private collector to see two Walter Gay paintings, and a long walk along the Seine, ending up at Notre Dame.

We began by walking to Angelina for sustenance, the famed Viennese coffee and pastry house on rue de Rivoli, where we had the Petit-déjeuner Angelina—velvety hot chocolate, grapefruit juice full of fresh pulp and a hint of bubble, mini pâtisseries, and a hot, so-much-welcomed plain omelette with field  greens.

At the table, I started to feel distant and foggy—English words mingled unintentionally with the French I was valiantly trying to call forth. We are tired, but there are paintings to visit.


A taxi ride (right) to the 16th (seizième) arrondisement takes us to a wonderful apartment (below).

 
Travel


Apartment   The two paintings by Walter Gay we look at are perfectly at home, integrated into a decorative scheme that includes framed fragments of hand-painted French 18th-century wallpaper, as well as other drawings and watercolors of interiors, portraits, and family photographs.

In short, hung in an environment much like what Walter Gay himself would have lived in—a melding of personal taste and history. 


Paris threatens to rain most of the time we are here, but this afternoon, we saw some blue sky.


About the Exhibition

The exhibition, Impressions of Interiors: Gilded Age Paintings by Walter Gay, is scheduled to open at The Frick Art Museum on October 6, 2012 and will present a comprehensive exploration of Walter Gay’s depictions of elaborately decorated, European and American domestic interiors, painted from the mid-1890s to the early 1930s. Bringing together about 70 works from public and private collections, it will offer a unique opportunity to reconsider the artist’s approach to the depiction of “empty” rooms, filled with furnishings but with no human presence. Called “poèmes d’intérieurs” by his wife Matilda, Walter Gay’s interior views are aesthetic interpretations and transformations of the spaces he lived in and visited and reveal his project of visualizing the poetics of space. The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue also engage broader contexts, including the role of artist as collector, decorator, and tastemaker; American artistic activity in Paris; and the early 20th-century, transatlantic Rococo revival.