By Irene Burke
I paused at a cobblestone roundabout as motorbikes and compact Citoens and Fiats sped by. A familiar face stared down from a lamppost, and I looked back incredulously. I was on a summer vacation with my family in the South of France, and I was amazed to spot an advertisement for the Princeton Pearlman Collection on display at the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. Amedeo Modigliani’s portrait of Jean Cocteau graced every lamppost of the sun-dappled boulevard to announce the exhibit. The inaugural world tour of the Princeton Pearlman Collection included exhibits in Oxford, England; Aix-en-Provence, France; Vancouver, Canada; and Atlanta, Georgia before returning to Princeton in September of 2015. The exhibit ‘Cézanne and the Modern’ now open at the Princeton University Art Museum celebrates the homecoming of this prodigious collection of modern art by masters Soutine, Pissarro, Modigliani, Van Gogh, and Cézanne.
The exhibit of this collection that I saw in Aix-en-Provence was a homecoming of another kind. Aix, the cultural capital of Provence, is the hometown of Paul Cézanne. It was there that Cézanne painted more than sixty sun-drenched landscapes of Mont Sainte-Victoire, some days toiling for hours in his atelier to announce that he had succeeded in painting only one good brushstroke. It was also there that Henry Pearlman discovered Cézanne’s work and collected six paintings and sixteen watercolors by the artist whom Picasso called “the father of us all” for his contribution to Cubism. These works are now a part of the Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection, which includes masterpieces that form a timeline of modern art—ranging from the impastoed, vibrant portraits by Chaïm Soutine to earthy watercolors by Camille Pissarro, Cézanne’s mentor, and culminating in the exquisite yet unfinished landscapes by Paul Cézanne that redirected the Impressionist movement and gave rise to Cubism.
Since the 1970s, the Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation has generously shared one of the greatest American collections of modern art with the Princeton University Art Museum. Visitors in four countries have enjoyed the collection, and its return to Princeton was truly newsworthy as Bridget Alsdorf, Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Archeology, addressed an audience that overflowed the largest lecture hall on campus.
Join us in celebrating the Pearlman Collection at the Princeton University Art Museum on Thursday, December 3 from 7:30-10:00 PM at Salon Cézanne: a Gala in Provence.