Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery Sawdust & Threads
Sawdust and Threads is a residency and exhibition that takes de-accessioned museum objects as its material. The project was conceived by artist Caroline Wright and Norwich Castle in partnership with the Polar Museum in Cambridge and UCL Museum & Collections in London.
At each of the partner venues, the artist has undertaken a short residency during which time she has made detailed drawings of the chosen de-accessioned museum objects. These have then been carefully and painstakingly deconstructed.
For the exhibition at Norwich Castle all the drawings will be assembled, along with the museum objects in their various states of deconstruction. The artist will also be in the gallery on particular days so visitors will be able to watch the artistic process unfold and to see the objects returned to their component parts.
The project poses questions around the nature of museum collections. Who owns these objects and how is the value of an object defined? Is value being removed or re-ascribed during this process of deconstruction?
31 January to 19 April 2015
Exploring the legacy of Edouard Manet: Manet’s influence on British Impressionism and the depiction of women in early 20th century art
including work by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, Philip Wilson Steer, Walter Sickert, Gwen John, Laura Knight, William Orpen, Alfred Munnings, Vanessa Bell and others.
The major loan exhibition Homage to Manet at Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery,
which opens at the end of January 2015, explores the legacy of one of the most important
and controversial artists of modern times, the French artist Edouard Manet (1832-1883).
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery’s Exhibition Officer and Project Curator Heather
Guthrie said: “Although widely acknowledged as a forefather of modern art and caricatured as the ‘King of the Impressionists’, Manet’s legacy in Britain until now has arguably received less attention. In staging this exhibition we are tracing a network of influences which flowed from Manet and provided the catalyst for the development of British Impressionism.”
Central to the exhibition and the undisputed star of the show is Manet’s stunning Portrait of
Mademoiselle Claus* recently acquired for the nation by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
The painting depicts Fanny Claus, a friend of Manet’s wife and a professional concert
violinist, wearing an elegant white dress, seated on a balcony. Painted in 1868, the same year
that Manet visited London, this is a fully realised portrait towards one of his greatest
masterpieces: Le Balcon (The Balcony) of 1868-69 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). Compelling and
enigmatic, the Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus introduces the central theme of the exhibition –
how Manet influenced the way future generations of artists depicted women.
As an exhibition, Homage to Manet presents a unique opportunity to look at the Portrait of
Mademoiselle Claus within the context of related representations of women. Manet relished
painting women. By exploring the connections between Manet and Monet, as well as the
next generation of artists working in Britain, notably Sargent, Sickert and Steer, the
exhibition invites engaging comparisons to be made through their respective depictions of
Moreover, the exhibition then looks at how Manet paved the way for professional female
artists of the early 20th century, such as Gwen John, Laura Knight and Vanessa Bell, to be
able to represent themselves as thoroughly modern women in the lead up to WWI.
Focusing on the period from 1860 until circa 1914, the exhibition features approximately 60
works including oils, prints and drawings on loan from national collections, such as Tate, the
British Museum, and the National Portrait Gallery, as well as regional and private collections.
This exhibition poses the question: what was Manet’s legacy in Britain and how did his vision influence the way other artists depicted female subjects?
In order to seek answers, selected works of female subjects are shown thematically divided into sections namely: Homage to Manet; Edouard Manet: Life, Women & Art; Followers & Critics; Impressions on the English; The Innocence of White; Manet, Monet & Sargent; Real Women: Heroines of Modern Life; Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe: A Lasting Legacy; Portraying Women: Art and Knowing and Post-Manet: Towards the Future.
A rare photograph, taken in 1868 by the photographer David Wilkie Wynfield (1837-1887) during Manet’s brief and only known visit to London introduces us to the artist. Having been ridiculed by the French public, for his controversial paintings of Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe 1863 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris) and Olympia** 1865 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris), Manet was hopeful of a more liberal reception across the Channel. This very direct, engaging portrait may in fact have been intended as a promotional tool to help introduce Manet to the British public.
Indeed from the 1880s younger artists working in Britain, including the American John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), Walter Sickert (1860-1942) and Philip Wilson Steer (1860- 1942), had begun to follow the inspirational example of their French counterparts.
Considering the Royal Academy to be out of touch with developments across the Channel, the New English Art Club (NEAC) was formed specifically to present a radical new platform on which to exhibit. The NEAC subsequently proved instrumental in shifting the way in which painting was perceived in this country until 1910.
The exhibition itself takes its title from Irish artist William Orpen’s (1878-1931) work Homage to Manet of 1909, a key work for this show on loan from Manchester City Galleries. Painted nearly thirty years after Manet’s death, this painterly homage by Orpen highlighted Manet’s considerable influence on the artistic milieu of the time and shows how he was regarded as a keystone in the development of modern art in Britain.
Orpen’s painting shows eminent critics, connoisseurs and artists of the Edwardian art world discussing Manet’s 1870 portrait of Eva Gonzalès, which is hanging on the wall above them (National Gallery, London - Sir Hugh Lane Bequest). Among the artists depicted are Philip Wilson Steer (centre) and Walter Sickert (far right) who were to immortalise East Anglia and London respectively through their vision of British Impressionism.
One of Manet’s leading disciples in France, who also was to become a major influence on the upcoming generation of British artists, was the artist Claude Monet (1840–1926). Monet’s painting Woman seated on Bench c.1874 is shown in the exhibition in the section entitled The Innocence of White, close to the elegant and enigmatic painting by Sargent of his niece entitled The Black Brook, c.1908, both on loan from Tate, London.
As with Mademoiselle Claus, the women depicted by Monet and Sargent are also wearing white, light summer dresses and portrayed seated outdoors. Other paintings in this section include Philip Wilson Steer’s Girls Running, Walberswick Pier, 1888-1894 (Tate, London), and George Clausen’s (1852-1944) Children and Roses, 1899, the latter from Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery’s own collection.
This grouping of similar subjects invites the consideration of interpretation, style and
technique between these three great artists. The white dress was en vogue in Paris during
the 1860s and 1870s, thus it is no surprise to see Manet and other artists incorporating the
latest fashion statement into their work as a mark of both modernity and also intrigue.
Traditionally the white dress had been regarded as a symbol of purity and innocence. Two decades after Manet had scandalised the Paris art world with his provocative paintings of women, Sargent reignited scandal at the Paris Salon when he exhibited his stunning full-length painting of Madame X in a daring homage to Manet’s realism.
Sargent’s wonderfully fluid studies for this seductively suggestive portrait are shown on loan from the British Museum, London. Just as Manet questioned traditional depictions of women and avoided obvious narrative, Sickert and Steer followed this example by painting female subjects in a similarly ambiguous fashion. Like Manet, their own work was deemed to be indecent when judged against the moral code of their time. In accepting Manet’s language of modernity, Sickert and Steer’s female subjects also take us deep into the minds of the artist and his intentions, as for example in Sickert’s Girl at a Window, Little Rachel, 1907 (Tate, London).
Manet’s legacy was to herald the emergence of the modern age and a new chapter for women. This was embodied in the self-belief and talents of up-coming women artists such as Gwen John (1876-1939), Laura Knight (1877-1970) and Vanessa Bell (1879–1961). Here the exhibition features a rarely seen painting from Norwich Castle’s own collection, a charming work by Gwen John of Girl in a Blue Dress holding a Piece of Sewing, dated c.1914-15. This painting together with Laura Knight’s Self-Portrait with the model Ella Louise Naper of 1913, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, London, epitomises the modern woman in this show.
Unique to Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, Homage to Manet is an intelligent, thought-provoking, as well as visually stunning exhibition. It succeeds in succinctly summarising Manet’s legacy and reputation as one of the most important artists of modern times.
This exhibition has been created and curated by Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery. It
will not be travelling, so this is your only opportunity to see it.
*Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, 1868, was acquired by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in
2012 following an eight-month campaign to save the painting for the nation. It was
purchased with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund, other foundations
After Manet’s death in 1883 the Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus was bought by John Singer
Sargent, the painting remained in the family until 2012. The issue of legacy is an increasingly
popular and fascinating way to explore the work of the world’s great artists. The fact that
this painting was part of Sargent’s own collection is significant and forms a neat connection
in Homage to Manet. Brought to Britain in the 1880s this painting, whose future has been
secured for generations to come, continues to occupy a rare place in our cultural heritage.
** Manet’s Olympia was secured through public subscription and offered to the French
nation in 1890 and today hangs in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.
The Principal Exhibition Sponsor for Homage to Manet is Birketts Solicitors.
Jonathan Agar, Chief Executive said: "As passionate supporters of the Norfolk community, Birketts is proud to support Norwich Castle and the East Anglia Art Fund. With our roots in East Anglia
stretching back to Edouard Manet’s lifetime we are delighted to sponsor the Homage to
Homage to Manet is also supported by the East Anglia Art Fund and the Eastern Daily Press.
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery is part of the countywide multi-award-winning
Norfolk Museums Service (NMS), comprising ten museums and a study centre. It is one of
only twenty-one Major Partner Museums in England receiving substantial revenue
investment from Arts Council England. Norfolk Museums Service is a partnership between
Norfolk County Council and Norfolk’s District Councils, funded through council tax,
earned income and grants.
Homage to Manet
Saturday 31 January to Sunday 19 April 2015
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Norwich NR1 3JU
Tel. +44 (0)1603 495897 www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk
Please see separate fact sheet for admission details and information regarding the full
programme of events which accompanies the exhibition.
For more information and images please contact:
Amanda Stücklin, Tel: 07789 007780 E: Amanda@stucklin.com
Past events at Norwich Castle
Edouard Manet (1832-1883)
Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus, 1868 oil on canvas, 128.5 x 87 cm (framed)
© Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
David Wilkie Wynfield (1837-1887), Edouard Manet, c.1868,
albumen print on mount with
printed surround, 71.1 x 53.2
cm (framed). © Royal Academy
of Arts, London; Photographer:
Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Sir William Orpen (1878-1931), Homage to Manet, 1909
Oil on canvas, 197 x 159 cm (framed).
© Manchester City Galleries
Claude Monet (1840-1926),
Woman Seated on a Bench, c. 1874, oil paint on canvas, 90 x 72 cm (framed). © Tate, London 2014
Gwen John (1876-1939)
Girl in a Blue Dress holding a Piece of Sewing,
c.1914-15, oil on canvas, 60 x 52 cm (framed). © Norfolk Museums Service (Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery)
John Singer Sargent, (1856-1925)
Portrait Studies of Virginie Avegno Gautreau, for the painting ‘Madame X’ in
the Metropolitan Museum, New York, graphite on paper, 45.1 x 60.3 cm (framed). ©The Trustees of the British Museum