A selection of major works from the William S. Paley collection, now belonging to New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), will be presented at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec in the fall of 2013. From Paul Cézanne to Francis Bacon by way of Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri Matisse, André Derain and Pablo Picasso, the exhibition The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism brings together 62 paintings, sculptures and graphic works to provide a magnificent survey of French painting, from Impressionism and post-Impressionism to modernism up to the 1960s.
A pioneer in the American media industry, William S. Paley (1901-1990) founded the CBS television network. A member of the MoMA board of directors, he devoted more than 50 years of his life to the museum’s growth and collections. Paley discovered the Impressionists and post-Impressionists on a trip to Europe in 1933. At a time when American collectors were more interested in European Renaissance and Baroque old masters, his first acquisition was a self-portrait of Paul Cézanne, which he bought from the painter’s son. He then acquired a landscape of Estaque by Cézanne and a large drawing by Edgar Degas depicting two dancing girls. In 1936, major works by Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso entered his collection. With the outbreak of the Second World War his purchases slowed in pace. In the 1960s, he acquired two masterful works by Picasso from the prestigious Leo and Gertrude Stein collection: Nude with Clasped Hands, a large-format canvas, an extraordinary piece from Picasso’s rose period, and The Architect’s Table, a remarkable example of so-called analytical Cubism. These works were donated to MoMA on Paley’s death in 1992, making a significant addition to the museum’s holdings.
William Rubin, Director Emeritus of MoMA’s painting and sculpture department, explains that Paley’s interest in modernism probably came from the fact that his achievements and fortune were tied to new technologies. Modern painting, with its free use of colour and brush strokes, also brought with it a kind of immediate sensation that Paley enjoyed and which he described as “voluptuous aesthetic delight”.
Organized by the Museum of Modern Art de New York, The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism is being presented in North America between September 2012 to June 2014. The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is the only Canadian stop on this tour.
Paul Cézanne, L’Estaque, 1879-83. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York: The William S. Paley Collection
Paul Gauguin, Les Lavandières à Arles, 1888. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York: The William S. Paley Collection
Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, Deux Danseuses, 1905. Charcoal and pastel on tracing paper. Museum of Modern Art, New York: The William S. Paley Collection
Édouard Vuillard, The Window, 1894. Oil on canvas. Museum of Modern Art, New York: The William S. Paley Collection
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, M. de Lauradour, 1897. Oil and gouache on cardboard. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The William S. Paley Collection