press release

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts presents the American premiere of the international touring exhibition Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet! The Bruyas Collection from the Musée Fabre, Montpellier March 26-June 13, 2004.

The exhibition, which showcases one of France's premiere regional art museums, will then travel to Williamstown, Mass., Dallas and San Francisco. "A number of the masterpieces to be shown in Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet! stem from the extraordinary relationship that developed between Gustave Courbet, the greatest French artist of the mid-19th century, and the collector Alfred Bruyas," says Dr. Michael Brand, VMFA director.

Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet! debuted in Richmond as part of an international tour under the auspices of FRAME (French Regional and American Museums Exchange), a consortium of 18 French and American art museums. FRAME was established four years ago to promote cultural exchanges between France and the U.S.A. The exhibition takes its name from a work by Courbet. One of the most famous paintings of the 19th century, it depicts collector Bruyas meeting Courbet, who had traveled from Paris to Montpellier in the south of France to visit Bruyas and paint under the intense southern sun.

Brand says another highlight of the show "is Courbet's huge painting of The Bathers, which Bruyas bought after it caused a sensation at the 1853 Salon in Paris." Bruyas also earned a place in the history of French art by adding then-contemporary art to the collection of the Musée Fabre in his native city of Montpellier. Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet! is "an international exhibition that will investigate Bruyas' artistic preferences, his friendships with renowned painters such as Delacroix, Courbet, Millet and Rousseau, and his determination to create a collection that would showcase the best of French painting of his time," Brand says. "Bruyas was a strong, rather eccentric character, and his relationship with artists and his strongly held beliefs about the importance of his own collection resulted in fascinating stories that the exhibition will bring alive for visitors," he says.

In 1854, Bruyas invited Courbet to spend time in Montpellier, where the artist painted his masterpiece in which Bruyas is seen welcoming the artist to his town. The painting is one of the treasures of the Musée Fabre and is said to be a key work in any understanding of 19th-century modernity. Among other paintings included in the exhibition are nine by Courbet, four by Delacroix and others by the likes of Millet, Corot, Cabanel and Glaize, together with animalier sculptures and watercolors by Barye and an exceptional selection of drawings by artists such as Delacroix, Ingres, Huet and Rousseau. The exhibition includes nine portraits of Bruyas.


Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet!
The Bruyas Collection from the Musée Fabre, Montpellier

Werke von Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Jean-François Millet, Camille Corot, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, u.a.