Monday, April 13

Postcards of Small French Paintings

I just ran across a souvenir that had fallen between some art books on my bookshelf where they reside. I had forgotten I bought it on a trip to Washington, D.C. last year, but there it was wedged between a couple of large books I have on the Impressionists.

It’s a group of postcards. You know, the kind with a picture and you write a short phrase like, “wish you were here,” or something, and put a stamp on it and mail it. The postcards were bound together with glue on one end, so it’s more like a little book. But they are actual postcards that you could remove if you wanted to and write “having a great time,” or such on them and send them to someone. Today's Image is one of the postcards.

On the cover it even says in small type-- a book of postcards, and it’s entitled--Small French Paintings, National Gallery of Art, Washington--and published by Pomegranate Communications.

I remembered buying it at the gift shop, or whatever they called it, at the National Gallery of Art after a full day of viewing room after room of some of the greatest paintings in the world. As I recall the gift shop was not a counter or two tucked in a dark corner of the basement. No, it was a big, bright, well-lighted establishment that would have felt right at home in any high-end shopping district in the country (with prices to match as I also recall).

Anyway to stay within my budget, I found this neat little gift of full-color postcards. There are 30 of them altogether, and they are examples of some of the best small Impressionist paintings. The first page after the title page, and which is not a removable postcard, gives a very brief overview of the Impressionist era from the 1860s until around the turn of the century. The paintings of 20 Impressionists are included, and all are housed at the National Gallery of Art.

I was aware of the work of many of them, such as Corot, Degas, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Seurat. Of equal interest to me were the ones with whom I was not so familiar; those include Bonnard, Carolus-Duran, Cazin, Daubigny (although I had heard of him), Fantin-Latour (I’d heard of him, too), Lepine, Redon, Tissot (that one sounded familiar), and Vuillard. These "new" names gave me a whole lot of new art to research.

Small seemed to be the key for getting your painting included in this collection. In this format, they are all postcard-size prints, of course. But of the actual paintings, the largest one included was Berthe Morisot’s The Sisters at 20.5 x 32 in/52 x 81 cm. The smallest was Edouard Manet’s At the Races at 5.1 x 8.6 in/12.6 x 21.9 cm.

By the way, the painting on the cover is Table Set in a Garden by Pierre Bonnard, c. 1908. I think I got a great deal on a collection of some of the best Impressionist paintings in the world that is easy to pick up and enjoy anytime. Thank you Pomegranate and National Gallery of Art. I plan to keep it out on the coffee table, though, so it won’t get lost on the bookshelf again.


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