Most of us when traveling to a major city have “visit museums” on our list of things to do. But we need to go no further than West End Avenue in Nashville to enjoy a world class art museum, the Frist.

And currently, there is a not-to-miss blockbuster exhibit, “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Their Times”.  Any art lover, neophyte or serious collector, will revel in this sprawling exhibit of more than 70 pieces visiting here from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Also included in this divine exhibition is “A Sporting Vision”, a collection of British Sporting art.

“This exhibition in its totality is really beautiful.  Fabulous.  It’s a show of poetry in art,” says Mark Scala, chief curator of the Frist Art Museum. “It’s rare to see this caliber of art in a southern museum. There’s a real draw, of course, to Impressionism.  The exhibit focuses on French art created by the masters throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.”

The New York Times proclaims it is one of the five best shows currently being shown in museums.

“How much pleasure our visitors are taking in seeing it,” says Scala.  “It requires a slow look.  The galleries are full of excited patrons; many of whom return.”

And no wonder.

Among the extraordinary masters are Edgar Degas,, Eugene Delacroix, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau and Vincent van Gogh.

Amidst  the many show stoppers is Young Woman Watering a Shrub by Berthe Morisot. It is exquisite in its rendering of an everyday person tending to an everyday task.

The Impressionist and Post-Impressionist landscapes are mesmerizing. Beginning with views of Paris, the exhibition laconically meanders through the French landscape.  Claude Monet’s Field of Poppies, Giverny with its band of dazzling red flowers demands a long view. Another, Irises by a Pond by Monet is divine.

Smaller pieces include paintings by George Seurat, Kees van Dongen and Van Gogh.  Kees van Donegan’s Haystacks portraying haystacks and workers in them lifts the spirits with its bright yellows beneath blue skies.

Edouard Manet’s painting of the beach is incredibly fetching.  And Coconut Palms by the Sea, St. Thomas is wonderful, as well. Henri Matisse’s rendering set in Nice is spellbinding.

The Chinese Chest of Drawers by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is bold and beautiful.  Henri Fantin-Latour’s Bouquet of Zinnias is bright and happy.

A Degas sculpture, The Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, is the only sculpture exhibited in the artist’s lifetime. It appeared in a sculpture show in 1881.  Detailed including its authentic tulle, it’s a must-linger piece.

Included in the incredible collection is a portrait by Renoir, Van Gogh’s The Laundry Boat on the Seine at Asnieres and a Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. 

The pieces are too numerous to list.  While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, any beholder will be transfixed by this magical exhibition.

My friend, Cassie Jones, and I spent an early afternoon meandering through the masterpieces.  We expect to go back again before it closes.  In our time there, we saw numerous Williamson folks including Debbie Cornett, Mollie Bowman and Sarah Hedden.  Our visit was on a weekday and the Ingram Gallery was very busy with patrons viewing and sharing comments with their friends and children.  

“A Sporting Vision”, pieces depicting horse racing, hunting and farming offer compelling visions of the English countryside. Where there are horses, there are dogs.  A particularly fun piece by Philip Reinagle, Portrait of An Extraordinary Musical Dog portrays a precious spaniel playing a square piano.  Dog lovers will adore it.

The entire exhibition of French and British art is from the collection of Paul and Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon, a couple living in the 20th century.  It was given to the Virginia Museum of fine Art by the devout collectors.  They chose pieces from the modern masters as well as pieces that spoke to them. The art hung on the walls of their homes in Northern Virginia, Cape Cod, Antigua and Paris. A gift of a lifetime during their lifetimes became a priceless gift to the Virginia Art Museum.  

And for awhile to the Frist Art Museum.

The exhibition opened at the Frist in early February.  It closes May 5.  It is an extraordinary opportunity to relish works by the masters. Don’t miss it.

Vicki Stout serves as SEM’s Travel and Food Editor. She is also a freelance writer and marketing and public relations consultant.


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