School of Paris: European Abstraction Post World War II Sept 10 - Jan 3

AUGUST 31, 2010

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art presents School of Paris: European Abstraction Post World War II September 10, 2010 through January 3, 2011. The exhibition presents more than 60 works (paintings, drawings, prints and artist books) from the Bechtler collection created by artists who are well represented in European museums but not as broadly known in the United States. Key artists include: Alfred Manessier, Gustave Singier, Alberto Magnelli, Pierre Soulages and Nicolas de Stael who, along with other artists of the era, were considered by many to be Europe’s answer to America’s Abstract Expressionists.

School of Paris: European Abstraction Post World War II marks the first exhibition since the Bechtler’s inaugural show opened January 2, 2010. All the works in the new show are from the Bechtler collection – nothing is on loan.

Among the many strengths of the Bechtler collection is a large holding of works by artists who practiced in Paris toward the end of World War II and the years following. The term “School of Paris” is exceptionally broad and can be meant to encompass modern artists from many European countries working in the French capital between the wars as well as after. Most of the artists in this “movement” were not from Paris and many were not from France but they discovered themselves either through their academic education in Paris or more often through their living and working among artists who were advancing similar aesthetic exploration. 

The Bechtler’s School of Paris exhibition includes artworks created by eight artists between the late 1940s and the early 1960s. It provides a particular focus on the work of Manessier, Singier and Soulages. Together, their various approaches to abstraction reveal the breadth of possibilities in both form and content in work that encourages us to question the very nature of form itself. 

The exhibition exemplifies the decades during which the Bechtler family was most successfully finding their way as collectors. Patrons Hans and Bessie Bechtler knew Manessier and Singier personally. School of Paris: European Abstraction Post World War II highlights the contributions of these two men. The two artists were two years apart in age and had neighboring studios in Paris. But, their approach to their art was in many ways profoundly different.

The show will reveal Manessier’s investigations into the powerful relationship between religion, spirituality and abstract art. Much of his work in the exhibition reveals attempts to capture religious and spiritual concepts and emotions in works that are completely non-figural. What separates Manessier from many is that he was so openly trying to find a way to reveal profound religious belief and passion in works that are abstract.

Unlike Manessier, however, Soulages (the only surviving artist in the exhibition) was not a conveyor of a particular narrative but instead of the acts of painting and printmaking. In his works we are encouraged to think about the process of artistic creation, of the planning and execution and the relationships between form, line, space and color.

School of Pairs: European Abstraction Post World War II provides the Charlotte region with works by artists one would probably have to travel to Paris to view. These are artists who are not well-represented and not often shown in American museums. In addition, because of the nature of the formerly private Bechtler collection, these artworks have not been seen by an American audience until now.

The exhibition is complemented by a free audio guide to many of the works in the show. In addition, a special component will be added to the Bechtler’s website ( which will provide digital images of all the works in the exhibition as well as content for featured pieces. Funding for the digitization of the Bechtler collection is made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Museum programming related to School of Paris: European Abstraction Post World War II includes:

--Music and Museum Series concerts: September 26 features a French composer and works from the exhibition. October 29 and 31 features a tribute to Edith Piaf. November 12 and 14 features French composers and additional works from the exhibition. All Music and Museum concerts are held in the lobby from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Purchase tickets at the admissions desk or by calling 704.353.9200.

--Parisian jazz from the fifties: October 15 and November 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the museum lobby. Free with museum admission.

--French movies: Each Monday in November at 7 p.m. in the museum’s video gallery. Free with museum admission

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