Claude d'Anthenaise
Karen Chastagnol

Public opening

On Wednesday 05 September 2018,
from 18 p.m. to 21:30 p.m.,
entrée libre

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couv_mellon_brochee_6juillnew copy

Edited book
of the exhibition

Country Life. Masterpieces from the Mellon Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art
From Editions Snoeck
Price: EUR 25
French edition, 128 pages, hardcover
Catalog edited by Claude d'Anthenaise and Karen Chastagnol


Communication manager for the Museum of Hunting and Nature
Ugo Deslandes
Phone. 01 53 01 92 40

Alambret Communication
Angelique Guillemain
Leila Neirijnck
Tel. 01 48 87 70 77

Faithful to the vocation of the François Sommer Foundation, the Museum of Hunting and Nature explores the different aspects of the relationship that man has with animals and natural space. In its own way, art reflects the evolution of our ecosystem by translating and orienting the perception of successive generations of observers and creators.

The exhibition Country Life - Masterpieces from the Mellon collection of the VMFA looks back on a moment in Western civilization, linked to the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the bourgeois classes, which tended to make the countryside a place dedicated to the resort. According to the country life model, derived from British culture, the land, the domestic animal - and in particular the horse - see their productive value associated with a recreational value. The countryside becomes a space of leisure for a whole social class generally coming from the cities and maintaining the nostalgia of an idealized rurality.

In England, from the end of the XNUMXth century, equestrian sports experienced a remarkable development (races, hunts). Paradoxically, this coincides with the moment when the nascent industry tends to impose the victory of horsepower over their animal competitors. An artistic genre particularly well represented in the English school, sporting painting reflects this craze of the dominant social group. This one will spread its cultural model towards the other Western nations according to the current of Anglophilia which characterizes the nineteenth century. On this side of the Channel, French painters, impressionists in particular, bear witness to another aspect of life in the countryside. They reveal how, near the cities, the rural space is taken over by the petty bourgeoisie who devote themselves to outdoor leisure activities advocated by hygienist theories.

Continuing the family tradition, billionaire and art lover Paul Mellon (1907-1999) collected with passion. Symptomatically, the works he has collected reflect his attachment to a way of life on the verge of extinction. True, Mellon is linked to the English tradition through his mother, but his paternal heritage assimilates him to the world of American industry and finance. Endowed with immense means and dedicated to a social life in the business world, he chooses a certain rurality. With Bunny, his wife, they will apply themselves to transposing the lifestyle of gentlemen farmers to the heart of the Virginia countryside. In their Oak Spring estate, Bunny unleashes his taste for gardening, while Paul breeds racehorses. Saturating the walls of the cottage, their collection of paintings illustrates this dreamed relationship with nature, the antipodes of industrial agriculture which, at the same time, radically transforms the rural landscape.

Exceptionally, the masterpieces they have collected and which have been bequeathed to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), are found in the Museum of Hunting and Nature. They can be appreciated from an art history perspective. But they also testify to the awakening in Western culture of a new sensitivity to nature following industrial development and urbanization.

Useful information

62, rue des Archives 75003 Paris
The museum is open every day except Monday and public holidays,
11 a.m. to 18 p.m., 11 a.m. to 21:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Full price: 8 euros
Reduced price: 6 euros

This exhibition has benefited from the support of the Heritage Foundation thanks to the sponsorship of CGPA


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