Alfred Stevens

Exhibition: 18 September 2009 - 24 January 2010

From the museum website, 22 September 2008

The Belgian artist Alfred Stevens (1823-1906) caused a furore in Paris with his paintings of intriguing, elegant and distant women. But this successful chronicler of the beau monde in the latter half of the nineteenth century originally started out as a painter of historical and socially realistic scenes.

It was at the Paris World’s Fair of 1855 that Stevens achieved a breakthrough, with a painting of a beggar woman and her children in the snow. In this early period of his career Stevens was particularly influenced by painters such as Gustave Courbet and by the Dutch interior tradition of the seventeenth century.

Parisian life

But Stevens soon jettisoned this subject matter for the model in the studio, and more particularly for portraits of society ladies and tableaux taken from the daily life of the upper classes. These paintings display similarities with the work of artist friends such as Edouard Manet, James Tissot and James McNeill Whistler. They evoke the spirit of gay Parisian life. In his paintings Stevens achieved a striking and convincing rendition of the complex emotions of the contemporary sophisticated woman, at the same time paying considerable attention to clothing and interior.

The Alfred Stevens exhibition is being organized in collaboration with the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels, where it will run from 8 May to 23 August 2009. The museum in Brussels owns various works by Stevens, and the Van Gogh Museum, too, has two striking works by the artist in its collection, including India in Paris.

Publications

A catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition, compiled by the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, c. 200 pages, 150 illustrations. Available in English, Dutch and French.

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