“Whistler to Cassatt” opens at the VMFA April 16

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Check out the exhibition catalog after seeing the show. | Photo by RICtoday

Travel to late 19th century France at the new VMFA exhibitWhistler to Cassatt: American Painters in France.”

We got a sneak peek at the 100+ paintings by expatriates who journeyed across the Atlantic to hone their craft and eventually revolutionize American art forms. The traveling exhibit uses James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Mary Cassatt as bookends to display works by a lineup of artists such as Cecilia Beaux, Frank Weston Benson, and John Singer Sargent.

Walking into “Whistler to Cassatt” is like taking a step back in time. Part of the exhibit is designed to mirror a historic Salon, where Parisians would survey juried works with a catalogue illustré in hand.

Dr. Susan J. Rawles, who curated the exhibit for the VMFA, spoke at the media opening. She highlighted the tensions that came hand in hand with the revolutionary ideals circulating throughout the art world and political sphere at the time.

“We were becoming modern,” Rawles said. “[...] Innovation came with growing pains.”

The journey towards artistic modernity was not a straight line — something the exhibit reveals as viewers learn about and observe the ebb and flow of painting techniques, subjects, and interpretations. This uneven evolution is particularly visible when the exhibit follows the artists as they returned to America.

“Whistler to Cassatt” opens tomorrow and runs through July 31 in the Lower Level Galleries. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for those over 65, $10 for youth (7-17) + college students, and free for members.

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