The Bohemian on tour

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A portrait of 19th century French composer Erik Satie bequeathed to the Northwestern University Library by the family of Charles Deering is being featured for the second time in a prominent national art exhibit. Ramon Casas’s 1891 painting The Bohemian, depicting Satie in Monmartre, was requested for inclusion in the exhibit Barcelona & Modernity: Picasso, Gaudi, Miro, Dali,which opened in October at the Cleveland Museum of Art and travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in March of 2007. In 2005, the portrait appeared in the exhibition Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre, which opened in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and then traveled to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Because of its grand scale,” says Art Collection Head Russ Clement, “the portrait has received considerable attention at both exhibitions. “Casas incorporates the hallmarks of self-satisfied, bourgeois, full-length portraiture, but cleverly turns them upside down, with Satie’s eccentric and scruffy appearance outside the proletarian Moulin de la Galette on a rainy day.”

The portrait’s home for the past 50 years has been the Charles Deering Library, where it normally hangs high on the east wall alongside portraits of members of the Deering family, for whom the library is named. Charles Deering acquired the painting in the early 1890s when, as an art student in Paris, he befriended a circle of avant-garde artists that included Ramon Casas and John Singer Sargent. After his death, his daughter, Mrs. Chauncey McCormick, bequeathed it to the University Library.

The curator of Barcelona & Modernity requested a loan of the portrait, calling it “extremely important” to the exhibit’s mission, which is “to examine a remarkable 71-year period (1868-1939) when Barcelona transformed itself from a city of provincial culture into one of the most dynamic centers of modernist art and architecture in Europe.” After more than a decade in Paris, Casas returned to his native Barcelona in the mid-1890s, where he became famous for his portraits of intellectuals and artists and his commercial posters.

The portrait will return to the Library in late 2007. More information on Barcelona & Modernity can be found online.