A Curator’s Tour: Dreams and Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing and Photography from the Musée d’Orsay at the National Museum of Singapore

On Friday evening, I returned to the National Museum for a curator’s tour of Dreams and Reality: Masterpieces of Painting, Drawing and Photography from the Musée d’Orsay. Szan Tan, Senior Curator, who has previously managed several exhibitions at the National Museum, including Greek Masterpieces from the Louvre, A Story of the Image: Old and New Masters from Antwerp, and Pompeii: Life in a Roman Town 79CE, served as our knowledgable and lively guide.

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I know a great deal about this era of art and history, thanks to years of university study and even more years of traipsing through museums in the United States and elsewhere. So, what did I learn, given this extensive knowledge? A whole lot! I gained a greater appreciation for (from top to bottom, above) Paul Cézanne’s The Card Players, Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone, and Eva Gonzalès’ A Box at the Théâtre des Italiens. (My favorite takeaway: Gonzalès was Édouard Manet’s only formal student and, in A Box at the Théâtre des Italiens, the bouquet placed on the edge of the box recalls the bouquet offered to Olympia.)

But what I found most informative were Tan’s “behind the scenes” tidbits: that Georges Rochegrosse’s painting The Knight of the Flowers, at 235×376 cm, was too big to fit into the National Museum’s freight elevators; that the reason there is a sole Edgar Degas piece—Dancers Climbing a Staircase—on display is because many of his works in d’Orsay’s collection are pastel and, therefore, too delicate to be lent out; that early negotiations between the National Museum and Musée d’Orsay included the possibility of Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist’s Mother by James McNeill Whistler traveling to Singapore. (I audibly gasped when Tan said this.)

Tan was also quite honest about the difficulty of negotiating loans with the d’Orsay. “For some, many works in these galleries may not be representative of each artists’ style,” she said when she ended our tour, “And that’s regrettable. But this is a first for Singapore and it’s an honor to host these paintings, drawings, and photographs here.”

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Full disclosure: I did not purchase this ticket; I received it compliments of the Museum.

(Additional credits: Images provided by the National Museum of Singapore.)

3 responses

  1. That’s really informative and insightful. I’m always curious about why these pieces and how the curators decide on what and how, given certain limitations. Most interesting. Thank you for the notes from your tour!