Programme de Recherche International
Paris Île de France


Anne Higonnet

New York, Barnard College of Columbia University, Radcliffe Institute Fellow at Harvard University, 2019-2020

Personal Motivations, Civic Effects 

Donations of Impressionism to public collections have always reflected the sceptical and critical character of the best Impressionist art. In this spirit, I question current boundaries around museum collections of Impressionism, whether in the form of entire museums, such as the Musée d'Orsay, or of galleries dedicated to European paintings in American museums. Moving forward, in light of new calls for social justice in our time of global crisis, I ask for the integration of all collections of nineteenth century art, regardless of the race of their makers. The late nineteenth-century French making of art, and the late nineteenth-century French taking of art from the places of its creation, I believe, now belong together in the same museums and galleries.

Ségolène Le Men

Paris Nanterre University

Collecting impressionism: here or there?

This colloquium, open to all, was organized at the initiative of Destination impressionnisme around a program aimed at supporting new research on impressionism that is transversal, interdisciplinary, and international. It is the result of the coordination between tourism, universities and museums along the Seine axis. Initially planned in situ, at the time of the closing of the exhibitions of Normandie impressionniste, it was to begin with a visit to the museum in Rouen on its collector-donor François Depeaux, who was involved in the genesis of Monet's Cathedrals series. This colloquium has become by force of circumstance entirely digital and bilingual: its new format, imposed by the sanitary crisis, gives it an experimental scope. It will sharpen our reflections on the way in which digital dissemination transforms and, one might say, works on scientific research, which constitutes the epistemological framework of the labex Les passés dans le présent of the University of Paris Nanterre. For three days, curators and researchers will address the field of collecting, a growing issue among art historians, which is linked to anthropological as well as historical and economic issues. Collectors have been key players in Impressionism, involved in the movement from the outset by the artists themselves. Like the art dealers, but in different ways, they were responsible for the regional, national and international dissemination of Impressionism. The act of collecting Impressionism will be questioned through a series of papers often based on case studies understood as significant samples and views on the movement: what about the gathering of groups of works of art in the same place, the collector's home? What do the arrangements and hangings mean? How could collections be built up across different social spaces, in distant countries and cultures? What happened to them until they were dispersed or entered the museum? Through these multiple perspectives, the points of view presented, which will be debated on Friday, will express the making of art history here and there, and the ways in which the artworks can be apprehended through the value of the exhibition, within different spheres.

Carolyn Kinder Carr

Washington, National Portrait Gallery Deputy Director and Chief Curator Emerita

Championing Impressionism in Gilded-Age Chicago: Sara Tyson Hallowell and the Formation of the Bertha and Potter Palmer Collection

In 1886, shortly after Potter and Bertha had completed their forty-two-room mansion on Chicago’s North side, they began a ninety-foot addition, which was to serve as both a ball room and an art gallery. The goal of this wealthy couple was to assemble an art collection that would equal or surpass those being formed locally and nationally. The Palmers were not new to collecting art, but Bertha Palmer, must have realized that the works that she and her husband possessed were inadequate in quantity and quality for the space soon to be available to them. Accustomed to only the best, she sought the advice of Philadelphia–born Sara Tyson Hallowell, who had made her reputation in Chicago in the early 1880s, as curator of the critically well-received art exhibitions at the Inter-State Industrial Expositions. Palmer admired Hallowell’s eye for art and she trusted her. They were women of the same class, separated only by wealth. Beginning in 1887, Hallowell advised the Palmers as they developed their collection of mostly modern American and European art. Two years later, when the trio was together in Paris, she encouraged the Palmers to purchase a pastel by Degas and a painting by Renoir. But not until 1891 did Impressionism became a focus of their collecting activity. That year they added, among other works, twenty paintings by Monet. Throughout 1892 and early 1893, the Palmers, with the unflagging help of Hallowell, acquired additional paintings by Monet, as well as multiple canvasses by Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley, as the sought to finalize their collection by the time visitors arrived in Chicago for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition With the great fair behind them and a ballroom full of art, the Palmers, who were the first to collect Impressionism in the Midwest, bought sparingly during the rest of the decade. The purchase of Monet’s Guibel Rock, Port-Domois in 1903 marked the conclusion of a formidable commitment to the art of the Impressionists.

Building the collection

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