Premier Portrait Busts by Jean-Antoine Houdon Presented as Part of Louvre Atlanta in June 2008
ATLANTA, January 3, 2008 – The sixth “Louvre Atlanta” exhibition will open at the High Museum of Art this June, featuring highlights from the Louvre’s unparalleled collection of sculpture by Jean-Antoine Houdon. “Houdon at the Louvre: Masterworks of the Enlightenment” will feature approximately 20 works portraying intellectual and political leaders, including famous busts of French Enlightenment thinkers Denis Diderot and Voltaire, portraits of American founding fathers George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and well-known portraits of Houdon’s wife and children. For the first time, a catalogue featuring the Louvre’s entire Houdon collection will be published in English to accompany the exhibition. The exhibition will premiere on June 7, 2008, and will be on view through September 7, 2008.
“Visitors to this exhibition will discover the work of the greatest sculptor from the Enlightenment period,” said Michael E. Shapiro, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director. “Jean-Antoine Houdon was truly a master of his craft and an essential representative of his time. His iconic portraits depict some of the most significant figures in French and American history. The exhibition will give visitors an in-depth look at another aspect of the Louvre’s world-famous collections.”
The Louvre possesses the largest and most important collection of works by Jean-Antoine Houdon, a major artist of the French Enlightenment. The sculpture busts featured in “Houdon at the Louvre” reveal the breadth of Houdon’s oeuvre. The objects on view—including busts, a funerary monument, a medallion and a death allegory—are made in a variety of media, such as marble, bronze, terracotta and plaster. Houdon was renowned for the incredible likeness and lifelike quality of his sculpted portraits. The exhibition will examine Houdon’s artistic process, shedding light on his largely unknown methods.
Exhibition highlights include a bust of General George Washington, which is depicted on the United States quarter. For its creation and that of other related sculptures, Houdon traveled to Mount Vernon in 1785 to meet and study Washington in person. Houdon and three assistants spent two weeks in Virginia, where they took a mold of Washington’s face for accuracy and then returned to France to finish the piece. The final product of Houdon’s American expedition resulted in what Washington’s family and contemporaries deemed the most lifelike depiction of him ever made.
Houdon was born in Versailles in 1741 and spent the majority of his life working in Paris. In 1761 Houdon was awarded the Prix de Rome in sculpture, and for ten years he lived and studied in Rome, where he was influenced by ancient and Renaissance art. He then returned to France and ultimately became a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Houdon died in 1828.
On view concurrently with “Houdon at the Louvre” is “The Louvre and the Ancient World,” featuring more than 70 works from the Louvre’s unparalleled Egyptian, Near Eastern and Greco-Roman antiquities collections. Showcasing works dating from the third millennium BC through the third century AD, “The Louvre and the Ancient World” examines the rise of the museum and its collections of antiquities under Napoleon, the discoveries and decipherment of hieroglyphics and cuneiform and the Louvre’s leading role in excavating the cradle of civilization at the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century. A special installation showcases the colossal ten-foot-long “Tiber”—one of the largest sculptures in the Louvre’s collections.
In October 2006 the High Museum of Art launched its unprecedented three-year partnership with the Musée du Louvre to critical acclaim, continuing the High’s longstanding strategy of collaborating with international institutions to bring great art to Atlanta. “Louvre Atlanta” is bringing hundreds of works of art from Paris to Atlanta through a series of long-term thematic exhibitions exploring the range, depth and historic development of the Louvre’s collections.
“Louvre Atlanta” opened on October 14, 2006, with the exhibitions “Kings as Collectors,” “The King’s Drawings” and “Faces of History and Myth: Busts from the Musée du Louvre.” The first year of exhibitions welcomed nearly 500,000 visitors, including approximately 70,000 schoolchildren. Following the opening of “Louvre Atlanta,” the High’s membership reached a record of more than 50,000 households and continually ranks in the top 10 among American art museums.
“Louvre Atlanta” includes the exchange of cultural expertise and operational strategies as well as educational programs and the development of joint publications, conferences, films and seminars exploring exhibitions and related themes.
Exhibition Organization and Catalogue
Managing curators for the “Louvre Atlanta” exhibitions are David Brenneman, Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the High Museum of Art, and Isabelle Leroy-Jay Lemaistre, Curator of Sculpture at the Musée du Louvre. The exhibitions are accompanied by a series of scholarly catalogues with essays from the French managing curators and other contributors.
The High’s total budget for “Louvre Atlanta” is estimated at $18 million. This includes a €5.5 million fee from the High that will go toward the restoration of the Louvre’s 18th-century French decorative arts galleries. The balance of the budget offsets the development of “Louvre Atlanta.” These funds will allow the High to develop special programming in Atlanta and costs associated with mounting three years of programming encompassing the nine exhibitions, such as insurance, travel, marketing, publications, advertising and security for this unprecedented project.
To date, the High Museum of Art has raised nearly $17 million in support of “Louvre Atlanta.” Lead patronage for the project has been provided by longtime High Museum Board member Anne Cox Chambers. Accenture is the Presenting Partner. UPS, Turner Broadcasting Corporation, the Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines and AXA Art Insurance are Lead Corporate Partners for “Louvre Atlanta.” The Foundation Partner is The Sara Giles Moore Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Forward Arts Foundation, Frances B. Bunzl, and the Tull Charitable Foundation. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. The Rich Foundation serves as Planning Partner for the partnership. This project is supported by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
Musée du Louvre
The Musée du Louvre and its continual architectural transformation have dominated central Paris since the late 12th century. The history of this extraordinary structure and the museum that has occupied it since 1793 created universal appeal for more than eight million visitors in 2005. The Louvre’s collection spans works of art up to 1848. With 35,000 works of art on display, eight curatorial departments—Near-Eastern; Egyptian; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculptures; Decorative Arts; Paintings; and Prints and Drawings—are a necessity. Celebrated works in the collections include Da Vinci’s “La Joconde,” best known as the “Mona Lisa”; Egyptian antiquities such as the “Seated Scribe,” the “Jewels of Rameses II” and the “Code of Hammurabi”; and Greek antiquities such as the “Winged Victory of Samothrace” and the “Venus de Milo.” For more information about the Musée du Louvre, please visit www.louvre.fr.
High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art, founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association, is the leading art museum in the southeastern United States. With more than 11,000 works of art in its permanent collection, the High Museum of Art has an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American art; significant holdings of European paintings and decorative art; a growing collection of African American art; and burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, photography and African art. The High is also dedicated to supporting and collecting works by Southern artists and is distinguished as the only major museum in North America to have a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field of folk and self-taught art. The High’s Media Arts department produces acclaimed annual film series and festivals of foreign, independent and classic cinema. In November 2005 the High opened three new buildings by architect Renzo Piano that more than doubled the Museum’s size, creating a vibrant “village for the arts” at the Woodruff Arts Center in midtown Atlanta. For more information about the High, please visit www.High.org.
The Woodruff Arts Center
The Woodruff Arts Center is ranked among the top four arts centers in the nation. A not-for-profit center for performing and visual arts, its campus comprises the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, Young Audiences and the 14th Street Playhouse.
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