Musée Boca

"Paris 1860-1930: Birthplace of European Modernism"

Pointillism gets its due and then some, however, in The Brook at Pierrechnien, an undated oil by Georges Lacombe. The artist applies what appears to be an intense hybrid of impressionism and pointillism to a simple woodland landscape, resulting in a delirious cascade of improbable colors -- trees, rocks, ground foliage, a stream of water, all painted not in earthy browns and greens but in shimmering daubs of rich purple, orange, maroon, aqua, and other unexpected hues.

The show's two bronze sculptures by Gauguin are on the dull side (as is the bronze piece by Pierre Bonnard with which they're displayed), although Gauguin's oil-on-canvas The Barge and the Boat (1882) is a good example of the kind of work the artist produced before he abandoned France for the South Pacific. It's a more or less impressionist painting with a realistic color scheme and an unusual composition that juxtaposes one end of a river barge with just the smallest portion of a boat's bow jutting into the bottom left of the image.

There is only one piece each by Matisse and Picasso, and both are drawings from the museum's permanent collection. Both are also models of simplicity. Matisse's Girl at the Piano (1925) demonstrates the rich possibilities of charcoal, while Picasso's portrait Fernande Olivier (1906) uses spare, clean lines to evoke the haughty profile of one of his mistresses. These two works are nicely complemented by the Modigliani drawing Portrait of Diego Rivera (1914), which portrays the Mexican artist as a sort of enigmatically smiling Buddha.

Lon Lhermitte's Potato Planting in the Spring (1888) is a pastel beauty


On display through March 12.
Boca Raton Museum of Art, 801 W. Palmetto Park Rd., Boca Raton. Call 561-392-2500.

The show includes a smattering of other works of interest, representing such "name" artists as Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Emil Nolde, Auguste Rodin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. But there's also some filler, pieces that don't do much more than extend an already overwhelming exhibition.

Call it a personal quirk, but I think two paintings displayed side by side near the end of the show, all by themselves, make "Paris 1860-1930: Birthplace of European Modernism" live up to its subtitle. Both Giorgio de Chirico's The Archaeologists (c. 1928) and Chaim Soutine's The Flayed Ox (1923) strike me as dramatic embodiments of the links -- and breaks -- between the art of the past and the art ushered in by modernism.

The Archaeologists is a large oil of two muscular if oddly proportioned figures of indeterminate gender crowded into an armchair. Their torsos are cluttered with fragments of columns from classical Greek architecture and other architectural details, along with several hard-to-decipher objects, and their flowing robes suggest the dress of ancient Greece or Rome. Their heads, however, are rendered as large, featureless, egg-shape ovals that could spring only from the imagination of a surrealist.

With The Flayed Ox, Soutine, too, straddles the centuries. On a literal level, it's simply a graphic portrait of an animal carcass hanging upside down, created with violent swirls and smears of oil visceral enough to summon up the stench of raw flesh. But trace the picture's ancestry back through the centuries, and you'll find yourself in the company of Rembrandt, who painted animal carcasses as vivid as Soutine's. Then follow Soutine's work forward, and you end up with the savage imagery of an artist who commanded his own private corner of modernism, Francis Bacon.

Coming, as they do, at the end of the show, these two dramatically contrasting paintings are revealing footnotes that pull this sprawling, exhilarating exhibition into sharp focus.

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