Final Days to See Rare Exhibition of Neo-Impressionist Portraiture at Only U.S. Venue

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Exhibit closes Sept. 7 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1887, oil on artist’s board, mounted on cradled panel. The Art Institute of Chicago, Joseph Winterbotham Collection. Photography © The Art Institute of Chicago.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has the finest Neo-Impressionist collection in America

A rare exhibition featuring Neo-Impressionist portraiture from artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Signac is closing next week at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904 is the first exhibition devoted solely to portraits of the Neo-Impressionist movement, and features more than 30 paintings and 20 works on paper. The Indianapolis Museum of Art is the only U.S. venue for this exhibition.

“The Indianapolis Museum of Art has the finest Neo-Impressionist collection in America, so this exhibition was a natural outgrowth of the excellent scholarship we have done and continue to do in this area of art history,” said Dr. Charles L. Venable, The Melvin & Bren Simon Director and CEO.

Drawn from museums such as the Musée d’Orsay, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as libraries and private collections throughout Europe and the United States, the exhibition presents a variety of intriguing images that offer fresh insight into the aesthetics and character of one of the era’s most fascinating chapters.

Rooted in recent discoveries in optics and perception, Neo-Impressionism was developed in late 19th-century Paris by French painter Georges Seurat. While his use of brilliant color and pointillist brushwork is largely associated with landscapes, seascapes and scenes of modern life, the approach also produced arresting portraits of unusual beauty and perception. Face to Face is the first museum exhibition to examine this significant facet of the Neo-Impressionist movement.

“Perhaps because Neo-Impressionism is so definitively linked to the pursuit of natural light and brilliant color, the primary vehicles for analyzing the technique have been landscapes and other outdoor scenes,” said Ellen W. Lee, The Wood-Pulliam Senior Curator at the IMA and co-organizer of the exhibition. “This exhibition reveals the Neo-Impressionists’ ability to invest psychological intensity and vivid expression into that most natural of subjects—the human face.”

Face to Face features 15 painters from France, Belgium and The Netherlands, working between 1887 and 1901.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1887: With its arresting contrast of complementary colors, this work is the best Neo-Impressionist example of the artist’s remarkable self-portraits.
  • Henri-Edmond Cross, Madame Hector France, 1891: This elegant life-size portrait is the artist’s most important likeness and represents his debut as a serious follower of Georges Seurat.
  • Achille Laugé, Against the Light–Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, 1899: This powerful portrait has never been exhibited in the United States, and together with the 4 other works by Laugé in the show, should be an intriguing discovery for American audiences.
  • Paul Signac, Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones and Tints, Portrait of M. Felix Fénéon in 1890: This striking image is arguably the most extraordinary portrait of the Neo-Impressionist movement. The canvas rarely travels and has not been outside of New York City in more than 30 years.
  • Albert Dubois-Pillet, Portrait of Mademoiselle B., 1886-87 and Portrait of Monsieur Pool, 1887: These two images represent the work of the first painter to apply Neo-Impressionism to portraiture, the intriguing Albert Dubois-Pillet, a self-trained artist and professional soldier.

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Exhibition Organization, Venues and Support:
Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904 is organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Exhibition curators are Ellen W. Lee, The Wood-Pulliam Senior Curator at the IMA, and Professor Jane Block, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois, a specialist on turn-of-the century Belgian art and culture. Before coming to the IMA, the exhibition premiered at the ING Cultural Centre in Brussels, a city whose artists made significant contributions to Neo-Impressionism. The exhibition was presented there from February 19, 2014, to May 18, 2014, under the title To the Point: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904.

This exhibition is made possible through the generosity of the Allen Whitehill Clowes Charitable Foundation, with additional support provided by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Face to Face Education Supporters help to underwrite all public programming, educational outreach and gallery experiences related to Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904.

Gold Supporters
The Alliance of the IMA

Silver Supporters
Honda Manufacturing of Indiana, LLC
Monarch Beverage
Steel Dynamics, Inc. Engineered Bar Products Division

Exhibition catalogue:
The exhibition is accompanied by a 260-page,fully-illustrated catalogue, The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904, published by Yale University Press in association with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The authors are exhibition curators Jane Block and Ellen W. Lee, with contributions by French scholars Marina Ferretti Bocquillon and Nicole Tamburini. The book is the first comprehensive survey of Neo-Impressionist portraiture.

About the Indianapolis Museum of Art:
Founded in 1883, the Indianapolis Museum of Art serves the creative interests of its communities by fostering exploration of arts, design and the natural environment. Encompassing 152 acres of gardens and grounds, the IMA is among the 10 oldest and 10 largest encyclopedic art museums in the United States and features significant collections of African, American, Asian, European, contemporary art and design arts that spans 5,000 years of history. Additionally, art, design, and nature are featured at The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, Oldfields–Lilly House and Gardens, a historic Country Place Era estate and National Historic Landmark on the IMA grounds and the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana, one of the country’s most highly regarded examples of mid-century Modernist residences. For more information visit

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Stephanie Perry
Indianapolis Museum of Art
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