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Charles Courtney Curran

Born: 1861, Hartford, Kentucky, United States of America
Died: 1942, New York, New York, United States of America

In the Luxembourg (Garden)
1889

Oil on panel
Image: 9 3/16 x 12 1/4 in. (23.3 x 31.1 cm)
Frame: 16 5/8 x 19 5/16 x 2 3/4 in. (42.2 x 49.1 x 7.0 cm)
Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.167
Signed: Lower right: CHAS.C.CURRAN/PARIS 1889
Artist Name: []

Interpretation

Charles Courtney Curran’s intimate In the Luxembourg (Garden) presents a casual glimpse of public life in a modern city park. In the foreground, a young woman in black is seated on one of a pair of slender chairs set along the edge of a path. Leaning down to feed a cluster of pigeons, she turns her back on the activity taking place on a distant but parallel path beyond a strip of shaggy lawn. There, shaded by the dense foliage of chestnut trees, a frieze-like arrangement of random visitors offers a spectacle of passing life. A barefoot running boy and a robed priest pass in opposite directions, a small child tugs against his nursemaid’s protective grasp, and other park-goers are caught in accidental, momentary arrangements as they sit, stroll, chat, and read. None of the figures seems to notice the conspicuous bronze sculpture that dominates the middle ground. Its larger-than-life scale and dramatic subject--a lion standing triumphantly over its prey--contrasts with the prosaic immediacy of the surroundings, especially in such practical details as the furled umbrellas carried by the priest and nursemaid and resting on the empty chair in the foreground.

Curran painted this work during the second year he spent in Paris as a student at the popular Académie Julian. Like many fellow American artists studying and working in Paris in the late nineteenth century, he was fascinated by daily life in the French capital. Between 1853 and 1870, Baron Georges Eugène Haussmann, Emperor Napoléon III’s urban planner, reformed the old city. From its chaotic layout and dearth of public green spaces emerged a modern metropolis of broad boulevards, handsome apartment blocks, and vast parks ornamented with statuary and fountains. The Luxembourg Gardens, originally a private preserve designed in the 1620s for the palace of Marie d’Medici, was one of the more celebrated Parisian parks, and it attracted numerous artists, including Maurice Prendergast, as seen in his The Luxembourg Garden, Paris (TF 1992.68). Among the sculptures there was The Nubian Lion and Its Prey (1870) by French artist August Nicolas Cain (1822–1894), seen in Curran’s painting.

The formal grandeur of Cain’s sculpture evokes the traditional training imbibed in Parisian academies by artists such as Curran and reflected in his painting’s high degree of finish and naturalistic illusionism. His subject, in contrast, demonstrates his awareness of current trends in art. French impressionist painters in particular had focused unconventionally on such settings of contemporary leisure activity as urban streets, railroad stations, and parks. Curran in this image emphasized the independence of the modern middle-class woman—literally so by placing the solitary female figure in the foreground of his picture. His model, shown with her face mostly shielded from view by the brim of her large hat, probably was his wife, Grace, who also posed for Curran’s Lotus Lilies (TF 1999.35). Although the nearby empty chair seems to invite a companion to join her, she is conspicuously unchaperoned, yet quite at ease—a representative of Gilded Age urbane cosmopolitanism.

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Provenance

The artist
(order not known) Coe Kerr Gallery, Inc., New York, New York
Adelson Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., New York, New York
Terra Foundation for the Arts Collection, Chicago, Illinois, 1992

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Exhibition History

Impressions de toujours: les peintres américains en France, 1865–1915 (Lasting Impressions: American Painters in France, 1865–1915), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 1993; April 1–October 30, 1994; April 1–October 31, 1995. [exh. cat.]

American Artists and the Paris Experience, 1880–1910, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venus: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, November 22, 1997–March 8, 1998.

Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920 (The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venues: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–July 15, 1999; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, December 10, 1999–May 7, 2000 (in modified form). [exh. cat.]

Selections from the Permanent Collection: American Artists in France, 1860–1910, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, March 10–June 3, 2001.

Collection Cameo, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, June 2001.

Paris and the American Woman, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois (organizer). Venue: Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, January 19–April 14, 2002.

Paris-New York, aller-retour. Une Modernité américaine en formation, 1875–1940. Oeuvres des collections de la Terra Foundation for the Arts et des Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (Paris-New York, Roundtrip. American Modernism in the Making, 1875–1940. Works from the Terra Foundation for the Arts and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, September 15–November 30, 2002. [exh. cat.]

En plein air: personnages dans un paysage (En Plein Air: Figures in a Landscape), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2004.

Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930 (Passing through Paris: American Artists in France, 1860–1930), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, April 1–October 31, 2005. [exh. brochure]

Americans in Paris 1860–1900, National Gallery, London, England and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachussetts in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York (organizers). Venues: National Gallery, London, England, February 22–May 21, 2006; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, June 25–September 24, 2006; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York, October 16, 2006–January 28, 2007. [exh. cat]

Le Temps des loisirs : peintures américaines (At Leisure: American Paintings), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, July 15–October 31, 2007.

Le Temps des loisirs : peintures américaines (At Leisure: American Paintings), Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France (organizer). Venue: Musée d'Art Américain Giverny, France, April 1–October 31, 2008.

The American Impressionists in the Garden, Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Nashville, Tennessee (organiser). Venues: Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Nashville, Tennessee, March 13–September 6, 2010; Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa, Florida, September 24, 2010–January 3, 2011; Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio, February 18–May 15, 2011. [exh. cat.]

Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee (organizer). Venues: Dixon Gallery and Gardens, July 27–October 5, 2014; Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 1, 2014–February 1, 2015; Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, South Carolina, February 20–May 17, 2015.[exh. cat.]

The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887–1920, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (organizer). Venue: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 13–May 24, 2015; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, June 14–September 6, 2015; Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, October 3, 2015–January 3, 2016 (exhibited in Norfolk, Virginia and Winston-Salem, North Carolina). [exh. cat.]

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Published References

Reymond, Nathalie. Un regard américain sur Paris (An American Glance at Paris). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1997. Text p. 31; ill. p. 30 (color).

Bonnechere, Pierre and Odile DeBruyn. Garden of the Muses. Antwerp, Belgium: Fonds Mercator, 1998. Ill. pp. 294–95 (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. The City and the Country: American Perspectives, 1870–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1999. Text p. 24 (checklist); ill. cover (color).

Cartwright, Derrick R. Ville et campagne: les artistes américains, 1870–1920. (exh. cat., Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for the Arts, 1999. Text p. 24 (checklist); ill. cover (color).

Cartwright, Derrick. "The City and Country: American Perspectives 1870–1920." American Art Review 7:1 (January–February 2000): 100–11. Ill. p. 103 (color).

Shelby, Carole. In the Luxembourg (Garden), Charles Courtney Curran. Collection Cameo sheet, Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago, Illinois, June 2001. Ill. (color).

Griffith, Bronwyn A. E. Passing Through Paris: Americans in France, 1860–1930. (exh. brochure, Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2005. Text n.p.; fig. 3, n.p. (color).

Griffith, Bronwyn A. E. Le Passage à Paris: les artistes américains en France, 1860–1930. (exh. brochure, Musée d'Art Américain Giverny). Chicago, Illinois: Terra Foundation for American Art, 2005. Text n.p.; fig. 3, n.p. (color).

Adler, Kathleen et al. Americans in Paris, 1860–1900. (exh. cat. National Gallery of Art) London, England: National Gallery Company Limited, 2006. Text pp. 62, 93, 237; ill. p. 56 (color detail), cat. 28, p. 64 (color), p. 237.

Hill, May Brawley. The American Impressionists in the Garden. (ex. cat., Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, Nashville, Tenessee). Nashville: Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art and Vanderbilt University Press, 2010. Text pp. 10, 119 (checklist); ill. pl. 14, pp. 56–57 (color).

The American Impressionists in the Garden, American Art Review (April 2010): 82–91, 126–128. Text p. 91, ill. p. 87 (color).

Faquin, Jane Ward. Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal, American Art Review (August 2014), 26:4. pp. 62-69. Text p. 65, 66, ill. p. 67 (color).

Faquin, Jane Ward and Maia Jalenak. Charles Courtney Curran: Seeking the Ideal. (exh. cat, Dixon Gallery and Gardens) Memphis, Tennessee: Dixon Gallery and Gardens, 2014. Cat. 9 (color) p. 40, Text p. 20, 21, 40-41, 116 (checklist).

Anna O. Marley, ed. The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement. (exh. cat. Pennsylvania Academy of FIne Arts). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press in association with Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 2015. Text pp. 96, 100; ill. pl. 133 (color).

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