ATLANTA (AP) — An exhibition at Atlanta's High Museum of Art showcases a group of impressionist and post-impressionist works amassed by a private collector who described the pursuit and acquisition of the pieces as an adventure.
The exhibition, "Cezanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection," includes 50 pieces, including works by Paul Cezanne, Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Amedeo Modigliani, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin and Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec. It opens Saturday at the High.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is 24 works by Cezanne, including 16 rarely exhibited watercolors.
One of the first paintings visitors see in the exhibition, Chaim Soutine's "View of Ceret," in which a cityscape is hardly recognizable, was Henry Pearlman's first major acquisition made in 1945. In Pearlman's "Reminiscences of a Collector," which is printed in the exhibition's catalog, Pearlman writes that he would get a "lift" when he saw that painting whenever he arrived home.
"This first pleasant experience with a modern painting started me on a road of adventure that has been both exhilarating and satisfying. I haven't spent a boring evening since that first purchase," he wrote.
Pearlman, whose Eastern Cold Storage Company made significant contributions to marine shipbuilding during World War II, and his wife Rose went on to build an impressive collection that has been housed at the Princeton University Art Museum since 1976.
The collection includes works that are considered among the best by the respective artists, including van Gogh's "Tarascon Stagecoach," Modigliani's portrait of Jean Cocteau and Cezanne's "Mont Sainte-Victoire." But it also lacks anything by Pablo Picasso and others that would seem natural inclusions for a collection of works from that era.
"There are relationships between things, but it's not a textbook collection," said High director of collections and exhibitions David Brenneman. "It's really Pearlman looking at things and drawing relationships."
Pearlman greatly admired Cezanne, and his collection includes works featuring familiar subjects for the artist — landscapes set in the countryside of Provence in southern France and still lifes of objects from his studio.
Some of the oil paintings seem incomplete with patches of canvas showing through, and it's not clear whether Cezanne had reached a point at which he was satisfied or whether he meant to come back to the paintings later, Brenneman said. Graphite drawings provide the framework for the watercolors, with colors added in varying intensity and the bright white of the paper shining through in places.
Soutine, the second most represented artist in the exhibition, is perhaps less familiar to the casual art consumer. But Brenneman said he hopes the exhibition will help expose more people to the works of the French expressionist who painted with thick strokes that leave markedly raised ridges of paint on the canvas.
To that end, the High borrowed five Soutine portraits from a private collection to supplement the seven other Soutine works included in the exhibition. Just as Soutine's landscapes verge on abstraction, his portraits nearly cross the line into caricature, Brenneman said.
Other highlights of the exhibition include "The Sacred Grove" by Toulouse-Lautrec, a parody of a classical scene by academic painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes that includes objects and people from Toulouse-Lautrec's time, and carvings by Gauguin and Modigliani.
The exhibition runs through Jan. 11 at the High. Then it will be at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, Canada, (Feb. 7-May 18) and will finish its tour at the Princeton University Art Museum (Sept. 12-Jan. 3, 2016). It previously was shown at museums in England and France.
If You Go...
CEZANNE AND THE MODERN: Oct. 25 through Jan. 11 at the High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta; http://www.high.org, 404-733-5000. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Friday until 9 p.m.; Sundays, noon-5 p.m. Adults, $19.50; students with ID and seniors 65 and over, $16.50; children 6-17, $12; children 5 and under, free.