The Impressionists in a controversial exhibition at the Musée Maillol

painting Les Ponts d'Asnières de Vincent van Gogh

Les Ponts d'Asnières, Vincent van Gogh © SIK-ISEA, Zurich (J.-P. Kuhn)

Emil Bührlewas rich, very rich. He owes his in great part to the massive sales of arms during World War II, notably the Third Reich. At the end of the war, his factory is even on the “black list” of the Allies. There are better reputations. But he was foremost a passionate art lover.

For the first time in France, the Musée Maillol is exhibiting his impressive collection comprising 60 Impressionists, Cubists and Fauvist paintings, before they return definitely to the Bührle Foundation, in Zürich. And, one must admit: even though some of the works were dubiously acquired, his collection is really worth the detour.

A controversial exhibition

It’s better to arrive warned, because the small panels of the museums will not tell you the entire truth. Even though one room timidly brings up the issue, nothing clearly indicates that Emil Bührle indeed bought for almost nothing 13 of these works “confiscated” from Jews by the Nazis.

Even after the trial, which forced him to return the works, he played ignorant and even obtained to be reimbursed. Amongst his opponents, no less than Paul Rosenberg, the despoiled art dealer... grandfather of Anne Sinclair. The reason for their litigation? One Corot, two Degas, a Manet and a Pissarro, as well as a Matisse. No less.

Beauties to be admired

Impressionist lovers will be delighted: Manet, Pissarro, Degas, Monet,Renoir, Sisley, and later Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, as well as Toulouse-Lautrec (for which Emil Bührle nourished a real fascination) are all there.

Amongst the masterpieces: Un Coin du jardin de Bellevue (A Corner Garden of Bellevue)by Edouard Manet, Portrait de Mademoiselle Irène Cahen d'Anvers (La petite Irène)by Auguste Renoir or Champ de coquelicots près de Vétheuil (Poppy fields near Vétheuil) by Claude Monet. Enough to be riveted during long minutes.

Painting Un coin du jardin de Bellevue with the Portrait de Mademoiselle Irène Cahen d'Anvers

Un Coin du jardin de Bellevue, Edouard Manet © SIK-ISEA, Zurich (J.-P. Kuhn)

Portrait de Mademoiselle Irène Cahen d'Anvers (La petite Irène), Auguste Renoir © SIK-ISEA, Zurich (J.-P. Kuhn)

Later on, Bührle became interested by the Nabis, Fauvists and Cubists (Braque,Derain, Vlaminck), then by the School of Paris with Modigliani, Nu couché, 1916 (Lying nude), ending with Picasso and his Nature morte avec fleurs et citrons (Still life with flowers and lemons)1941. In short, a stunning panorama of the leading painters from the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century. And we naturally go home with the special edition of Beaux-Arts Magazine under the arm (€9.5).

Nu couché painting with Nature morte avec fleurs et citrons

Nu couché, Amedeo Modigliani © SIK-ISEA, Zurich (J.-P. Kuhn)

Nature morte avec fleurs et citrons, Pablo Picasso © SIK-ISEA, Zurich (J.-P. Kuhn) © Succession Picasso, 2019


Open 7/ 7 during the exhibition period, from 10:30am to 6:30pm. Late night on Friday until 8:30pm.

Discover too : the must see queer serie.

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