The Americans in Paris exhibition runs through September 24th, 2006 in the Museum of Fine Art's Gund Gallery. This is a fabulous way to see rare pieces that are traditionally kept in other museum's or owned by private collectors; featuring the artists Mary Cassatt and James Whistler among others.
I must admit, I am not the biggest fan of Impressionist or post-Impressionist painting from Europe in the late 1800s. My mom is a huge fan and a museum member though, so we ended up going to this exhibit upon her last visit to Boston. I was pleasantly surprised by this collection-the masterworks are beautifully displayed within three categories-outdoor spaces, portraits, and paintings which the artists painted once they got back to the United States after obtaining their Paris influences.
Most paintings in this collection were featured in the prestigious "salon" in Paris when they were first publicly debuted. Paintings from the "salon" were thought to be masterpieces in their own right and were snatched up by collectors for lots of money. A far cry from the typical "starving artist", Mary Cassatt and John Singer Sargent actually lived the life of typical upper-class Parisians; though they were both American by birth.
My absolute favorite painting in this collection is "Madame X" by Sargent. It is amazing what a controversy this painting caused when it first debuted 100 years ago (since it's subject was an American who was thought to have beaten the Parisian women at their own game). There she stands, haughty, beautiful and larger than life. It really is quite a lovely painting to see in person-pictures do not begin to capture Madame's attitude in its entirety.
Also on display are several other very famous works by the artists- "Whistler's Mother" (the woman wearing black in a chair facing left), "Woman in a Pearl Necklace", by Mary Cassatt, and Sargent's interpretation of the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. All of these paintings exhibit lovely impressionism and post-impressionism styles and are excellent pieces to examine in detail. Brushstrokes and little things that go unnoticed in prints seem to stand out in the MFA's gallery setting.
Tickets to the exhibition should be purchased ahead of time (either online or by phoning the ticket counter at the MFA). The exhibit typically sells out on busier days and weekends. When you purchase tickets, they give you a specific viewing time to ensure that traffic through the gallery is not too much at any one hour. Tickets are about $23 a person and include general museum admission. An audio tour is also available for $5 a person and is highly recommended.
If you enjoy these kinds of exhibitions at the MFA, you may want to consider becoming a member. Each family membership comes with exhibition tickets for one event during the year. It turns out to be an excellent value, and then you can save on even more museum cost items like the dining and parking.