CONTACT: Victoria Winkelman, 214-768-3785
Jo Szymanski, 214-768-3650,

March 23, 2004


DALLAS (SMU) – An international loan exhibition of some 40 major paintings by French masters of the seventeenth century, which is considered the Golden Age of French art, will be on view at the Meadows Museum in Dallas from April 30 through July 25, 2004.  Titled The Triumph of French Painting: 17th Century Masterpieces from the Museums of FRAME (French Regional and American Museum Exchange), the exhibition features works by 34 artists, including three each by Nicolas Poussin and Georges de la Tour, two by Louis Le Nain and a major late landscape by Claude Lorrain.  The exhibition also features Nicholas Mignard’s The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife, a gift to the Dallas Museum of Art in 1970 by the founder of SMU’s Meadows Museum, Algur H. Meadows, and The Meadows Foundation Inc.

Not only does the exhibition reflect the extraordinary museological and scholarly advances in the study of French painting made in the last generation, but it is the first show of its kind to highlight the remarkable riches to be found in the regional museums of France and America.  As exhibit curator Penelope Hunter-Stiebel has noted in the critical catalogue that accompanies the project, “It is with astonishment that we confront paintings of tremendous power and beauty in the museums of France and the United States that were produced in France in the seventeenth century by artists whose names are unfamiliar to all but specialists.”

Dr. Richard R. Brettell, American director of FRAME at the University of Texas at Dallas and adjunct senior curator at the Meadows Museum, said, “It is no accident that the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of Spanish painting is precisely what the French call ‘Le Grand Siécle.’  In the seventeenth century, each nation struggled to define itself as ‘great’ both in opposition to—and in emulation of—the dominant artistic traditions of Italy.  Vouet, Poussin, Claude, and Le Brun in France have the canonical positions that are analogous to those of Velázquez, Murillo, Zurbarán, and Ribera in Spain.

“For every beggar by Murillo in Spain, one finds three by the Le Nain brothers in France.  For every humble still life by Zurbarán or Sanchez Cotán in Spain, one finds another in France by Louise Moillon or Sebastien Stoskopff.  For every Catholic altarpiece by Simon Vouet or Philippe de Champaigne in France, one finds one by Murillo or Zurbarán in Spain.”

While France and Spain competed for artistic dominance in the seventeenth century, they did so in different ways.  The Triumph of French Painting at the Meadows Museum will demonstrate that France was more preoccupied by Italian classicism than by the counter-reformation Baroque modes of painting that were preferred in Spain.

“The almost opposite direction that painting took in France and Spain during the seventeenth century, classicism versus naturalism, defined the future development of both schools over several generations of artists,” said Dr. Mark Roglán, Meadows Museum curator. With its focused collection of Spanish painting, the Meadows Museum offers the best opportunity to compare the French and Spanish paintings, picture by picture and artist by artist, and is the only museum in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where the visitor can have a sustained experience of a European national artistic culture.

The exhibition is organized by the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, in conjunction with the French Regional and American Museum Exchange (FRAME), and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. The honorary patrons of the exhibition are His Excellency Jean-David Levitte, Ambassador of France, and Madame Levitte.  Its Dallas showing is made possible by the generosity of The Meadows Foundation and members of the Meadows Museum.

The Réunion des Musées Nationaux in Paris published the accompanying catalogue.  Like the organization of the exhibition, the publication is a model of international collaboration, and it presents a unique English-language primer of French seventeenth century painting. Essays by Michel Hilaire, director of the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, and Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée, former director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lille, address the historical and cultural context along with America’s participation in the rediscovery of the field. Contributions by Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, Portland Art Museum, and Carter Foster, Cleveland Museum of Art, complement the interpretations of the paintings by French and American curators of the lending museums.

The selections will be augmented by three paintings lent especially for the occasion by the Kimbell Art Museum:  Nicolas Poussin’s Venus and Adonis, the cornerstone of an exhibition held in Fort Worth in 1989 tracing the development of the artist in his first years in Italy; Georges de la Tour’s Saint Sebastian Tended by Irene, a nocturnal subject invoked against the ravages of the Thirty Years War and appropriately owned by both King Louis XIII of France and Duke Charles IV of Lorraine; and Louis Le Nain’s Peasant Interior, the finest surviving version of a popular composition extolling the virtue of domestic harmony produced by the sounds of an old man’s flute.

Three public events will be held at the Museum in conjunction with the exhibition.  On Wednesday, April 21, at 11:00 a.m., Dr. Kathleen A. Wellman, SMU professor of history, will present a lecture titled “Le Grand Siécle: Culture and Society in Seventeenth Century  France,” and on Thursday, April 29, at 6:00 p.m., there will be a lecture by Penelope Hunter-Stiebel, curator of the exhibition and editor of the catalogue.  On Thursday, May 6, at 5:30 p.m., Dr. Edmund P. Pillsbury, director of the Meadows Museum and SMU professor of art history, will present a lecture titled “Connoisseurship and Condition: Georges de la Tour’s Saint Sebastian Tended by Irene.”

The Meadows Museum is located off North Central Expressway at 5900 Bishop Blvd. on the campus of Southern Methodist University, three blocks west of the DART light rail Mockingbird Station.  Current hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m Thursday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.  Admission to the exhibit is free. Ample free parking is available in the Museum garage.  For information, call 214.768.2516 or visit the Museum’s Web site at