Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
1897-98; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Large Bathers
1906; Philadelphia Museum of Art
June 20–September 3, 2012.
Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art
The dream of Arcadia, a mythic place of beauty and repose where humankind lives in harmony with nature, has held an enduring appeal for artists since antiquity. With its promise of calm, simplicity, and order, it has served as both an inspiration—the sought for, but never fulfilled ideal of a paradise here on earth—and as an image of refuge, a place that is distant and seemingly protected from the vicissitudes of life. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time of sweeping and often disruptive social, technological, and intellectual change, this dream found a powerful new currency and once again spurred the imagination of a new generation of painters—many of whom played key roles in the development of modern art.
The exhibition examines the different, yet closely related and complementary meanings of these three paintings, each a landmark in the history of modern art.
“Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia reflects the challenge of expressing a timeless and deeply human ideal with new urgency and meaning in the modern era,” said Joseph J. Rishel, The Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900, and Senior Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection and the Rodin Museum. “By bringing together these ambitious works, we hope to convey an unusual range of achievement leading up to World War I, as artists fueled by high optimism and sometimes profound unease looked inward and to each other to give creative shape to the common fate of the human condition.”