Final Weeks for Vermeer Painting at the High
ATLANTA, February 5, 2009 – The last day to view Johannes Vermeer’s painting “The Astronomer” at the High Museum of Art is Sunday, February 15. This painting, on view as part of “The Louvre and the Masterpiece” exhibition, had never been seen in the southeastern United States before coming to Atlanta in October 2008. George de la Tour’s “The Card Sharp” painting will replace the Vermeer in the exhibition beginning February 17, and remain on view through September 6, 2009.
“The Astronomer,” one of only three paintings dated by the artist, was originally intended to form a pair with Vermeer’s, “The Geographer.” In 1785, the pair was presented for consideration to be included in King Louis XVI’s art collection housed in the Louvre; however, the two great masterpieces were not purchased by the King. Nearly 100 years later, “The Astronomer” was purchased by the Rothschild family and remained in their collection until Hitler specifically targeted it for the museum he planned in his hometown of Linz, Austria. The painting was seized from the Rothschild’s home in late 1940, stamped on the back with a small black swastika and sent to the Jeu de Paume for inventory as one of the European works of highest historical and artistic value. The Allied armies discovered Hitler’s stash of paintings in May 1945, and “The Astronomer” was returned to Paris and the Rothschild family. It was given to the Louvre in 1983.
Artist Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1622–1669 or 1670) feel into obscurity until his rediscovery in the nineteenth century. The individual credited with reviving Vermeer’s reputation was a Frenchman, Théophile Thoré (aka William Bürger). A great connoisseur and author of numerous articles, Thoré’s 1866 monograph brought Vermeer back to forefront of art history. Most of Vermeer’s paintings focus on the dignified depiction of everyday people carrying out their daily tasks through the use of delicate brushwork, masterful handling of light, and a sense of mystery. Today, there are only 35 known works by Vermeer, of which the Louvre owns two. Vermeer, one of the foremost artists of the Dutch Golden Age, may be best recognized for his work “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.”
The Louvre and the Masterpiece
In the final year of “Louvre Atlanta,” “The Louvre and the Masterpiece” explores how the definition of a “masterpiece,” as well as taste and connoisseurship, has changed over time. The exhibition features ninety-one works of art drawn from all eight of the Musée du Louvre’s collection areas, spanning 4,000 years. Paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and drawings reflect three major themes: the changing historical and cultural definitions of a masterpiece, authenticity and connoisseurship, and the evolution of taste and scholarship. In addition to text labels, audio guides and docent tours, the exhibitions are enhanced by interactive tools organized by the High, together with MuseumLab, an international alliance initiated by the Louvre for which the High serves as the only U.S. partner.
The High Museum of Art launched its unprecedented three-year partnership with the Musée du Louvre in October 2006 to critical acclaim, continuing the High’s long-standing 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.” For its second year, exhibitions included “The Louvre and the Ancient World,” “The Eye of Josephine,” and “Houdon at the Louvre: Masterworks from the Enlightenment.” On January 30, 2009, the High welcomed the 1-millionth visitor to “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 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.
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