Vincent van Gogh
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Degas to Picasso allows visitors to see the development of modern art—from Impressionism to Cubism—through drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures that reveal the creative exploration of more than fifty artists. Learn about some of the artists whose works you will see.
Mary Cassatt traveled around Europe from 1866 until 1874, receiving training from some of the continent’s great masters. She moved to Paris in 1874, where Edgar Degas invited her to participate in the annual Impressionist exhibitions. The theme of motherhood was central to Cassatt’s work. She became well known for her depictions of mothers and children in different media, including color prints inspired by Japanese woodcuts. Cataracts in both eyes brought an end to her artistic career in 1915, but she remained in France until her death, in 1926.
Paul Cézanne was associated with several of the groundbreaking groups in the Parisian art world throughout his life. In 1863, his paintings were shown alongside those of Édouard Manet and Camille Pissarro at the Salon des Refusés, an exhibition of art that the French Academy had refused to show in the official Salon. Beginning in 1874, he also participated in some of the Impressionists’ group shows. Critics responded negatively to his work at these exhibitions, which led him to change his subject matter and style. He came to emphasize mass and structure in his work, exemplified by his still lifes and the paintings of Mont Sainte-Victoire that he made at l’Estaque, in France. His style influenced many later generations of artists, particularly the Cubists.
Born in Belarus, Marc Chagall worked intermittently in France. His career there was interrupted by both World Wars. He left Paris for a short holiday before the outbreak of World War I, and he was unable to return until 1923. Facing anti-Semitic discrimination from the Vichy government during World War II, he lived in the United States from 1941 to 1948. Chagall’s reputation grew despite these relocations, and his work was the subject of major exhibitions in New York and Paris in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. He is best known for his use of color and for his biblical and fantastic subjects. In addition to painting, he designed stage sets for several ballets and worked in stained glass.
Honoré Daumier began his artistic career with lithographers and publishers in Paris. He became best known for his caricatures satirizing powerful figures in French society; his lithographs were published in many popular illustrated newspapers. Throughout his life, and through the numerous political upheavals he witnessed, Daumier used his work to champion and protect the rights of French citizens.
After studying for a few years with private tutors, Edgar Degas continued his early artistic training by copying works at the Louvre museum, in Paris, where he met Édouard Manet and Mary Cassatt. Degas exhibited regularly with the Impressionists. Although he considered himself more of a Realist, Degas was, like the Impressionists, captivated by daily life in Paris. His primary subjects included group portraits, dancers, women bathing, washerwomen, and the racecourse, which he captured in drawings, paintings, prints, pastels, and sculpture. He stopped making art due to poor health after 1912.
Paul Gauguin spent much of his life traveling the world. He grew up in Peru and served at sea for six years in his youth. Before becoming an artist, he worked as a stockbroker and used his earnings to collect the works of Impressionist artists such as Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro. Gauguin took up painting in 1874 and showed work in the fifth Impressionist exhibition. After losing his job, in 1882, Gauguin began traveling to find what he considered “primitive” cultures—first in Brittany, then Panama, Martinique, and, most famously, Tahiti. His later style featured broad fields of symbolic color that did not represent reality, a practice that inspired Fauves like Henri Matisse.
After studying with a few private tutors and sketching at the Louvre, Théodore Géricault made his debut at the Salon of 1812, where he won a gold medal. He initially specialized in battle scenes infused with high drama. Following his own military service and travel in Italy, Géricault began to represent remarkable events from contemporary life. He is best known for his 1819 painting Raft of the Medusa, which depicts the few survivors of a shipwreck that had occurred in 1816. Late in his life, Géricault focused on portraits; the individuals he depicted were likely being treated by a doctor who was a friend of the artist’s. These works document the physical characteristics of mental health disorders, and, after they were uncovered in the twentieth century, they helped secure Géricault’s reputation as a realist painter.
Along with Fernand Léger and Jean Metzinger, Albert Gleizes was at the forefront of modern art in Paris in the early twentieth century. He participated in the Salon d’Automne, a new annual exhibition, in 1903, 1904, and 1910. At the Salon des Indépendants of 1911, Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Fernand Léger, and three other artists exhibited together in room 41, an occurrence that is widely considered to mark the beginning of Cubism. He and Metzinger wrote a book on the subject, titled Cubism, in 1912. Gleizes was concerned with social issues, and his interest in Cubism intersected with his desire to make the artist a central, rather than marginal, figure in society.
Vincent van Gogh was born in Holland, but he completed the majority of his artworks after moving to France, in 1886. Van Gogh worked for art dealers in Holland, Paris, and London before eventually teaching himself to paint. He moved to Arles in the South of France in 1888, and he invited Paul Gauguin to join him later that year. The two artists lived and worked together for only a few months before Van Gogh allegedly cut off part of his own ear. He then remained under the care of doctors in Saint-Rémy and Auvers-sur-Oise in 1889 and 1890, where he painted one of his most well-known works, Starry Night. He died in 1890, having sold only one painting during his lifetime.
Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres traveled extensively in Italy during the early part of his career and worked within the classical tradition, even as his contemporaries moved toward Romanticism. He is known for a highly linear, polished style and sought to represent his subjects as ideally as possible. His early submissions to the French Salon were received poorly by the public, but he continued to submit paintings for the exhibition in an effort to improve his reputation. His fortunes changed after the Salon of 1824, when critics favored his conservative, classical style.
Following his art training, Fernand Léger was part of the Beehive artists’ colony (where he met Marc Chagall) and later worked with the artists who formed the Section d’Or movement (including Jacques Villon). Léger was gassed during his service in World War I, and his experience on the front led him to incorporate machines and robot-like figures into many of his works. During the interwar period, Léger began to make films and designed theater sets and costumes. After spending the duration of World War II in the United States, Léger was devoted to the Communist Party and the cause of world peace. He took up the subject of the common man and a more representational style, and he produced large-scale stained glass and mosaic works for public spaces until his death.
Édouard Manet began to train as an artist following a failed naval career. He was one of the first artists to represent modern life rather than historical, mythological, and biblical scenes. His paintings were rejected from the official French Salon in 1863 due to their unfinished style and controversial subject matter, but they were shown in the Salon des Refusés, a special exhibition of refused artworks. Manet fought in the National Guard during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, and he created lithographs that documented the devastation of Paris. After the war, Manet began to associate with the Impressionists, including the painter Berthe Morisot. Although he never exhibited with them, he painted in the city of Argenteuil with Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir. Manet is now widely credited as the father of modernism.
Henri Matisse initially trained as a lawyer, but he decided to become an artist when he took up painting while recovering from an illness. He led the Fauve movement at the beginning of his artistic career, and he later gained an interest in the decorative traditions of Islamic art after traveling to Spain and Morocco in the 1910s. Matisse and Pablo Picasso became friendly rivals around 1906, after meeting at one of American writer Gertrude Stein’s salon evenings in Paris. Throughout his lifetime, Matisse continued to develop the bold forms that define his art. He took up cut paper collage in the 1940s after surgery left him confined to his bed. This medium, which consists of simplified shapes on a monumental scale, remained his primary means of artistic expression until his death, in 1954.
Early in his career, Jean Metzinger was known as a Neo-Impressionist painter, and he built up scenes with disconnected dabs of paint that resembled mosaic. He soon joined with Albert Gleizes and Fernand Léger to form a group of Cubist painters who exhibited together in room 41 at the 1911 Salon des Indépendants. Metzinger participated in the Section d’Or group, and his style at this time focused on scenes from modern Parisian life painted in accordance with carefully determined compositional rules. During World War I, Metzinger served as a stretcher bearer with the ambulance corps. He participated in the “return to order” that occurred after the war and adopted more classically inspired subjects and forms, although he shifted back to his earlier Cubist style toward the end of his life.
After completing his training and spending his early career in Paris, Jean-François Millet moved to Barbizon, in 1849. Here, he took up the subject of rural life. The monumental sizes of his paintings make the peasants he depicted appear heroic, struggling bravely in the face of poverty and hardship. These paintings were displayed in the official French Salon during the 1850s, and, following this success, Millet was a popular and celebrated artist for the rest of his life.
It was one of Claude Monet’s paintings—Impression, Sunrise—that gave rise to the name “Impressionism.” Although the writer who coined the term was criticizing the works at the first Impressionist exhibition, in 1874, the group adopted it as the name for their movement. Monet was interested in capturing the effects of light and color. He painted outdoors (en plein air) and completed several series of works that showed the same subject in different seasons and at different times of the day. From 1890 to the end of his life, Monet lived in Giverny, where he maintained the extensive gardens that inspired his water lily paintings.
Pablo Picasso was born in Spain, but he lived primarily in Paris after 1904. He moved through stylistic phases known as his Blue, Rose, and African periods before becoming one of the primary developers of Cubism, around 1909. His best-known works are paintings, but Picasso also made prints, drawings, and sculptures; he designed posters, book illustrations, and ceramics; and he designed stage sets and costumes for ballet performances. Much of Picasso’s art features the women in his life, and his personal relationships are the subject of much ongoing debate.
Camille Pissarro is the only artist who showed work at all eight Impressionist exhibitions. His association with this group began when he met Claude Monet in art school. The two both went to London during the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), where they spent time in the National Gallery. Pissarro also worked with Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas, both of whom influenced his style. Pissarro spent much of his life in the suburbs of Paris, where he painted peasant life. His sympathy for the poor is perhaps reflected in his political affiliations; he was a committed anarchist, especially toward the end of his life.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one of the leading figures within the Impressionist movement. Renoir and Claude Monet were close friends, and they painted in several locations around the French countryside together. He also worked often with Paul Cézanne. Renoir’s style changed several times, moving from Impressionism to classicism to a highly personal style that focused on nudes as a subject. Following periods of ill health, Renoir moved to Provence in 1907. With the aid of an assistant, Richard Guino, he took up sculpture, a practice he continued until the end of his life.
A fixture in the cafés of Paris, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec depicted many of the famous dancers, singers, and acrobats of the era. He developed a talent for unmasking his subjects and revealing their true identities and emotions. Within bohemian circles, the artist became nearly as well known as the performers he drew; he was disabled due to a childhood disease, and his alcoholism often made him unruly. He was recognized for his art as well as his appearance and behavior. Toulouse-Lautrec’s unique depiction of the spectacle of Paris made him famous both during his lifetime and long after his untimely death.
Born Gaston Duchamp, Jacques Villon was the elder sibling of well-known artists Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Marcel Duchamp, and Suzanne Duchamp. After spending his early career as an illustrator, Villon organized the first Salon d’Automne in 1903. He moved to the suburb of Puteaux, in 1906, where he hosted many Cubist painters who eventually became known as the Puteaux Group. Many of these artists went on to form another group known as the Section d’Or (Golden Section). Villon had been reading the art writings of Leonardo da Vinci, and he chose this name for the group to emphasize its attention to proportion and balance. After World War I, Villon created a series of color prints after famous modern masterpieces, a project that took eight years to complete. From the 1930s until the end of his life, Villon applied his Cubist style to landscapes and provided illustrations for many books.
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson
Roger de la Fresnaye
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Vincent van Gogh