Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art

Feb 27, 2014

Painting portrait of woman wearing white dress.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Madame Henriot, ca. 1876. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Gift of the Adele R. Levy Fund, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO (February 27, 2014)—The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are pleased to present Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art, featuring the work of 19th century avant-garde painters such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent van Gogh. The exhibition includes nearly 70 paintings from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and features a selection of intimately scaled impressionist and post-impressionist still lifes, portraits and landscapes, whose charm and fluency invite close scrutiny.

The significance of this exhibition is grounded in the high quality of each example and in the works’ variety of subject matter. The paintings’ dimensions reflect their intended function: display in domestic interiors. Their intimate effect also extends to the paintings’ themes—many are studies of the artists’ favorite places and depictions of people familiar to them, and the works often became gifts shared among friends.

Iconic subjects of the impressionists are represented in many of the canvases: ballerinas and racehorses by Edgar Degas, still lifes by Paul Cézanne and depictions of fashionable young women by Renoir. The more decorative use of color and pattern in the later paintings are representative of the work of Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, members of a group known as the Nabis (Hebrew for “prophets”).

Intimate Impressionism resonates with the outstanding impressionist and post-impressionist works from the Museums’ own holdings,” says Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “This exhibition is the latest in a rich history of collaborations between the Fine Arts Museums and the National Gallery of Art dating back to the 1940s. We are pleased to host these national treasures and provide our audience with the opportunity to view them here at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.”

These works are among the most beloved paintings at the National Gallery of Art and usually hang in a special suite of rooms in its East Building. These exhibition spaces are currently undergoing renovation, making this presentation in San Francisco possible. Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert & Jane Meyerhoff Collection, also traveling during the renovation, opens in June at the de Young.

“The National Gallery of Art is delighted to share our masterpieces with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, providing thousands of visitors with an opportunity to experience the Gallery’s celebrated collections,” says Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art.

Most of the works in Intimate Impressionism came to the National Gallery of Art from the private collections formed by Ailsa Mellon Bruce and Paul Mellon, children of the museum’s founder, Andrew Mellon. The efforts of Paul and his wife, Rachel Lambert Mellon, on behalf of the Gallery’s collection cemented the institution’s role as one of the world’s leading repositories of French modernist painting. Longtime museumgoers in the Bay Area might remember seeing some of the paintings from Mrs. Mellon Bruce’s collection in 1960, when they were still owned by her and were on loan to the Legion of Honor. Intimate Impressionism returns a selection of these works to San Francisco more than half a century later.

Intimate Impressionism illuminates the numerous ways that the word intimate applies to particular paintings of this era: the close relationships between the artists and their subjects; the friendships among the artists themselves; and the compositions scaled for display in private residential settings,” says Melissa Buron, associate curator of European art.

Click here for more information on Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art.

Exhibition Organization
This exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

The presentation at the Legion of Honor is made possible by:
Director’s Circle: William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation. President’s Circle: Bank of America, Clare C. McEvoy Charitable Remainder Unitrust and Jay D. McEvoy Trust, and Diane B. Wilsey. Conservator’s Circle: Mrs. George F. Jewett. Benefactor’s Circle: Christie’s, The Estate of Harriet E. Lang, Shirley Liebhaber, Anne G. McWilliams, The Selz Foundation, Inc., and The Wurzel Trust. Patron’s Circle: Sonja and Bill Davidow, Rajnikant and Helen Desai, Mr. and Mrs. William Hamilton, Greta R. Pofcher, Mary Barbara and Andrea Schultz, and David A. Wollenberg. Media Sponsors: San Francisco Chronicle \ Community Partners: Ghirardelli Chocolate Company and La Boulange.

Exhibition Catalogue
Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art presents 68 works, including paintings by Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Édouard Vuillard, among others. An essay by Mary Morton, curator and head of the department of French paintings at the National Gallery of Art, explores the personal nature of these works and how they came to be shared with the museum-going public, highlighting for the first time Ailsa Mellon Bruce’s role in the formation of the collection. Hardcover, 147 pages, 102 illustrations. $45 \ $40.50 FAMSF members. Purchase at the FAMSF Museum Stores or online.

Visiting \ Legion of Honor
Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue & Clement Street, San Francisco, CA 94121. Open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays; open select holidays; closed most Mondays.

Admission Tickets
Tickets are now on sale and range in price from $10-$22 and include general admission. Members and children five and under are admitted free. Prices subject to change. Tickets are available at

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and was established as the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion, a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its holdings span four thousand years and include European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

Images from all exhibitions and museums available upon request.

Media Contacts
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