The William S. Paley Collection:
A Taste for ModernismOctober 10, 2013 – January 5, 2014
"It all comes down to this:
to have sensations and to read nature."
– Paul Cézanne
A selection of major works from the William S. Paley collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York will be presented at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
in the fall of 2013. From Cézanne to Bacon by way of
Degas, Rodin, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Derain and Picasso, the exhibition The William S. Paley Collection:
A Taste for Modernism brings together 62 paintings, sculptures and graphic works to create a magnificent panorama of French Impressionist and post-Impressionist painting from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century. Organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism is being shown in North America between September 2012 and June 2014. The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is the only Canadian stop on this tour. The exhibition is accompanied by the English-language catalogue of the collection, edited by William Rubin and Matthew Armstrong of the MoMA. A 32-page illustrated album in French will be published on this occasion by the MNBAQ.
The American media pioneer William Samuel Paley (1901-1990) founded the CBS television network. A member of MoMA’s board of directors, he devoted more than 50 years of his life to the museum, to which he bequeathed his collection of more than 80 works. Paley discovered the Impressionists and post-Impressionists while travelling in Europe in 1933. At a time when American collectors were more interested in the old masters of Renaissance and Baroque European painting, Paley’s first acquisition was a self-portrait by Paul Cézanne, purchased from the painter’s son. He then acquired a landscape of Estaque and a large drawing by Degas of girls dancing. Major work by Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso entered his collection in 1936. William Rubin, Director Emeritus of MoMA’s painting and sculpture department, explains that Paley’s interest in modernism probably came from the fact that his achievements and fortune were tied to new technologies. Modern painting, with its free use of colour and brush strokes, also brought with it a kind of immediate sensation that Paley enjoyed and which he described as “voluptuous aesthetic delight”. With the outbreak of World War Two his purchases slowed in pace. In the 1960s, he acquired two masterful works by Picasso from the prestigious Leo and Gertrude Stein collection: Nu aux mains jointes (Nude with Joined Hands), a large-format canvas, an extraordinary
example of Picasso’s rose period, and La Table de l’architecte (The Architect’s Table), a remarkable example of so-called analytical Cubism. These works were donated to the MoMA after Paley’s death and became part of the collection in 1992, a significant addition to the museum’s holdings.