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03 Jul 2018

French Pastels: Treasures from the Vault

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Reviewed by Franklin Einspruch

Léon-Augustin Lhermitte is one of those supremely able artists that history, for its own cruel reasons, discarded like a soda can from a car window. His pastels are extraordinary, and one of them, Women and Children Bathing in a River, is on rare display at the MFA in a show dedicated to French pastellists. If you're indifferent to Impressionism, regard the scene in light of Sally Mann's related photos up at the Peabody Essex Museum. It's more disquieted than it looks at first.

Cassatt and Pissarro are geniuses and Degas came uncannily close to inventing lyrical abstraction, but you knew that already. The standout of this show is Millet, from whom there are a dozen works. Pastels, ideally suited to bright hazes, in Millet's hand become capable of ominous depictions of dusk, and astute, painterly specificity like the garden snail in Primroses (1867-68) and the steel hoe slung over the farmer's shoulder in Path through the Wheat (ca. 1867) that punctuates the buzzing field.

Exhibition French Pastels: Treasures from the Vault link
Start date 30 Jun 2018
End date 06 Jan 2019
Presenter Museum of Fine Arts, Boston link
Venue 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA, USA map
Image Jean-François Millet, Path through the Wheat, about 1867, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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