Feature

Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde

An homage to the life of the renowned art dealer.

Masterpieces by Cézanne, Picasso, Renoir, and Matisse fill the Met's new exhibition, said Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times. But 'œthe star of the show is not any of the artists.' Rather, Cézanne to Picasso celebrates the career of Ambroise Vollard, the 20th century's greatest art dealer, through whose hands all these works at one time passed. The law-school dropout began buying etchings at stands along the Seine, but ended up 'œstupendously wealthy.' He shaped the tastes of countless American and Continental collectors, snapping up Gauguins and van Goghs when no one had heard of them, and reviving Cézanne's reputation when he'd almost been forgotten. Still, he wasn't averse to making money from passing fads, and 'œit's a pity that the Met, allergic to mediocrity,' doesn't introduce us to any of his lesser-known clients.

There would hardly be room, said Lance Esplund in The New York Sun. You've never seen so much great art in one place, so 'œpace yourself.' A gallery of van Gogh adjoins one of Cézanne, and first-rank works by Bonnard, Vuillard, Degas, and others line the way. It's like 'œeight or 10 individual exhibitions' all rolled into one. But that's merely a prelude to the final Picasso gallery, which includes the artist's 100-print Vollard Suite. Commissioned by the collector in the 1930s, this 'œsweeping tour de force,' overflows with gods, nymphs, muses, and nudes of all sorts. This is high modernism, but deeply influenced by Ingres, Rubens, El Greco, and other old masters. Almost a museum in itself, The Vollard Suite 'œsummons and grapples with the history of Western art and mythology' like no other collection of images.

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