The Second "Second Post-Impressionist Show"

Woman's head in cubist style with text


Roger Fry (1866–1934) organized the exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists at the Grafton Galleries, 8 Grafton Street, London, 8 November 1910–11 January 1911. This critical event in the reception of modern art in England could be considered the “First Post-Impressionist Exhibition” and was followed closely by the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, staged at the same venue 5 October–31 December 1912. The significance of these two exhibitions has been well documented by scholars. Less is known, however, about what I have called the second Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition—it could perhaps even be called the “Third Post-Impressionist Exhibition,” presented at 8 Grafton Street in January 1913. The Frick Art Reference Library is fortunate to possess a copy of the catalogue.

The two Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition catalogues share a cover designed by Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell (1879–1961) and drawn by Duncan Grant (1885–1978), which features the quasi-cubist face of a woman with a hand raised in possible horror at the announcement of the exhibition. The title page of the later catalogue bears the additional text “re-arrangement Jan. 4–Jan. 31 1913.” The three introductory essays are identical in both versions: “The English Group” by Clive Bell (1881–1964), husband of Vanessa Bell, in which he introduced the concept of “significant form,” The French Group by Roger Fry, and The Russian Group by mosaicist Boris Anrep (1883–1969). There were 242 numbered entries in the October 1912 catalogue, compared to 252 in the January 1913 version.

Besides the ten additional works, there were many changes made in 1913. While both exhibitions began with “popular religious Russian prints of the nineteenth century” in the staircase, the later exhibition lacked Matisse’s plaster sketch Le Dos in the entrance landing. Upon next entering the Octagon Room, the 1913 visitor was confronted with a Cézanne solo exhibition of 33 works, lent on consignment from Bernheim-Jeune et Cie, whereas the 1912 visitor would have seen five Cézannes, two lent or consigned by Vollard, and three lent by Gaston Bernheim-Jeune, accompanied by two paintings by Matisse (in 1913, relocated to the Large Gallery), three by Vlaminck (two relocated to the Large Gallery), five by Derain (one relocated to the Large Gallery and one to the End Gallery), one by Lhote (relocated to the Large Gallery), one by Marchand (relocated to the Large Gallery), one by Picasso (relocated to the Large Gallery), and one by Duncan Grant (relocated to the Large Gallery). Seated man in the Large Gallery of the Grafton Galleries looking over his right shoulder at Henri Matisse paintings in the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, London, 1912.Eric Gill’s sculpture, The Golden Calf, concluded the Octagon Room section.

Vanessa Bell’s painting, A Room at the Second Post-impressionist Exhibition (1912), now at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, is sometimes titled The Matisse Room in the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition. In fact, it is a partial depiction of the Large Gallery in 1912. The 1912 exhibition had sixteen Matisse paintings and concluded with Matisse’s plaster sculpture, L’araignée. The 1913 version had eight Matisse paintings. L’araignée had been moved to the end of the Centre Gallery, joining there the third state of Matisse’s Buste de femme. Matisse’s L’enfant au cheval and La pose du nu had been relocated from the Octagon Room. Of the Matisses originally in the Large Gallery, Nu au bord de la mer, Cyclamens, Conversation (owned by the Russian tea merchant Sergei Tschoukine), Poissons rouges, Les aubergines, and Coucous sur le tapis bleu et rose (these last three lent by Bernheim-Jeune et Cie) remained. Gone were Les capucines (now known under the title Nasturtiums with the Painting “Dance” I (Metropolitan Museum), Joaquina, Nature morte (citrons), Portrait de Marguerite, Le luxe, Le panneau rouge, Les poissons, and La coiffeuse and Portrait au madras rouge (both lent by Michael Stein).

But there were other artists included in both the 1912 and 1913 Large Gallery. Seven Picassos (six lent by Kahnweiler and one by Vollard) were in both arrangements, six additional Picassos were in the 1912 exhibition (two lent by Leo Stein), and a still life, lent by Clive Bell, appeared in 1913. Bonnard, Chabaud, Derain, Doucet, Friesz, Marquet, Petroff-Wodkin and Van Dongen were represented in both. Braque and Flandrin were only in the 1912 exhibition, whilst Goncharova, Marchand, Marval, Ottman, Picart, Sarian, Thiesson, Von Arep, and Wadsworth were added to the 1913 Large Gallery. The paintings and sculpture in the 1912 and 1913 versions of the Centre Gallery were very similar, with Rousseau’s Scene de forêt, lent by Leonce Rosenberg, notably absent in 1913. The End Gallery, sometimes called the North Gallery, was 86% unchanged, allowing the public to see again watercolors by Cézanne and sculptures, prints, watercolors, and drawings by Matisse, including La danse, painted for Tschoukine’s palace. Many of the changes between the two shows occurred because a number of the 1912 works were on consignment from dealers such as Kahnweiler, Kann, Berheim-Jeune, Sagot, Druet, Vildrac, and Vollard and some were sold during the 1912 show. One can also see Roger Fry’s collecting interests: in both arrangements there are four loans by him: Vanessa Bell’s Nosegay, Duncan Grant’s Queen of Sheba, Boris Von Anrep’s L’homme construisant un puits pour désalterer le betail, and a Portland Stone garden statue by Eric Gill.

Front cover of the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition (London: Ballantyne & Company, 1912), designed by Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell, drawn by Duncan Grant.

Vanessa Bell (sometimes attributed to Roger Fry), A Room at the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, 1912. Musée d’Orsay, Paris

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