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The Ultimate Guide to Private Lives

Steal away to Paris, France, this summer at the Cleveland Museum of Art to enjoy the sights and sounds of the small pleasures and modest acts of life found among the family gatherings, gardens, and city streets depicted in the paintings and prints in Private Lives: Home and Family in the Art of the Nabis, Paris, 1889–1900.

This show focuses on four Post-Impressionist artists who were members of the Nabis brotherhood: Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Félix Vallotton. The Nabis derived their name from the Hebrew word, meaning “prophets.” In 1888, linguist Auguste Cazalis drew a parallel between the way they aimed to revitalize painting (as “prophets of modern art”) and the way the ancient prophets had rejuvenated Israel.

While their individual art styles differed, they group shared a common interest in the works of Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne. However, they were determined to renew the art of painting through their belief that a work of art was not a depiction of nature, but a synthesis of metaphors and symbols. This exhibition features a variety of mediums, including lithographs, woodblock prints, and paintings.

We encourage you to visit Private Lives and continue reading to for our recommendations on how get the full experience of the new exhibition.

Private Lives in Collection Online and on the ArtLens App

View the show in person and then take another look in Collection Online via the Private Lives exhibition filter. Scroll through to view the CMA-owned artworks; the other artworks are on loan from the show’s co-organizer, the Portland Art Museum, plus museums and private collections in the US and Europe.

Petites scènes familières pour piano, 1893–95. Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947)(Pages 1–3). Album of lithographs; overall: 35.6 x 27.6 x 0.7 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Jane B. Tripp Charitable Lead Annuity Trust, 2019.233

Head to the ArtLens App to hear selections from Claude Terrasse’s Petites scenes familières (Familiar Little Scenes) that are performed by pianist Arseniy Gusev of the Cleveland Institute of Music. Terrasse was Pierre Bonnard’s brother-in-law, and Terrasse asked Bonnard to contribute illustrations to his musical compositions, including his Familiar Little Scenes, published in 1895.

Want more? While perusing artworks in the exhibition, listen to our Spotify playlist, Private Lives: the Sounds of Paris for some French tunes to get you in the mood.

Take the Exhibition Home with You!

Stop by the museum store to pick up a copy of the Private Lives catalogue — a perfect addition to your coffee table. There are also many other exhibition-themed items to choose from like French soaps, teas, and hand towels!

The fully illustrated catalogue which features essays by the co-curators and vignettes by leading historians and art historians offer insight into the private worlds of the Nabis.

Women with a Dog, 1891. Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867–1947). Oil and ink on canvas; 41 x 32.5 cm.Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1979.23. Image courtesy of the Clark Art Institute. clarkart.edu. © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Private Lives Photo Challenge

Connect with a selection of the artworks in our weekly photo challenge! Starting July 5th, tag us in your recreation or reinterpretation of the selected artwork and use #StepInsideCMA. Get creative!

Winners will be picked at the end of each week to receive a complimentary pair of tickets to Private Lives AND a $10 voucher to Provenance Café.

Hint: Women with a Dog (pictured above) is the first artwork in the challenge!

Virtual Programs

July 21 Fabric and Fashion: Pattern and Design in the Art of Édouard Vuillard

Artist Édouard Vuillard painted alongside his mother and sister, both of whom were dressmakers. How did this exposure to fabric and fashion impact Vuillard’s art?

Join fashion historian Catherine Amoroso Leslie of Kent State University and CMA chief curator Heather Lemonedes Brown as they discuss how Vuillard’s bold use of pattern reflects the fashions of the time.

August 18 Painted Pets: Dogs and Cats in the Works of Pierre Bonnard

Easily identified by colorful and richly patterned scenes of everyday life, the work of Pierre Bonnard often showcases domesticated animals as part of the family unit.

Join historian Kathleen Kete of Trinity College and curator Mary Weaver Chapin of the Portland Art Musuem as they discuss how animals arose as an important subject for Bonnard and other artists of his time and the popularity of pets in late 19th-century France.

Additionally, come over to the north court lobby for casual talks that introduce the major themes of the exhibition. These mini chats are free; no ticket required. Join us on weekdays, from 10:00am-noon, and Wednesday and Friday afternoons from 2:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.

French Macarons

Local French Fare

Before, or after, you visit the CMA and tour Private Lives, try some French cuisine and treats around Cleveland.

Le Petit Triangle—Parisian offering for morning coffee and pastries, casual midday meals, and evening dinners with wine pairings

EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute — High-end French plates including meat and seafood options with upscale drinks served amid luxe decor

L’Albatros — Upscale, contemporary French destination with patio seating, cheese courses and daily specials

Gigi’s on Fairmount — Small and charming New York-style French bistro

Sophie La Gourmande — Modern patisserie brand specializing in treats with globally-inspired flavors and classic techniques

On the Rise — Local bakery offering French macarons, éclairs, and other delicious pastries

Fluffy Duck Café — Housemade breads & pastries plus hot & cold sandwiches in a casual cafe setting

On Instagram:

@duroolowu — The Nigerian-born British fashion designer is best known for his innovative combinations of patterns and textiles that sometimes draw inspiration from Post-Impressionist artists.

@frenchwords — Expand your vocabulary and learn some French words and phrases.

It’s all in the details! The atmosphere of Private Lives is complete with wallpaper inspired by late 19th century French interiors and the sound of a piano playing French compositions illustrated by Bonnard. #StepInsideCMA and enjoy these sights and sounds of small pleasures found among the family gatherings, gardens, and the city streets.

Purchase your tickets to Private Lives, on view through Sunday, September 19.

This exhibition is organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Portland Art Museum.

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