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NORMAN KLEEBLATT: Jewish Patrons and the Paradox of Portraiture: Paintings by Ingres, Renoir, Klimt, Sargent, and Picasso

Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 7:30 PM

Jews had little access to major portrait painters prior to the Enlightenment and the subsequent emancipation of Jewish in Europe. That situation changed dramatically beginning in the 19th century, when Jewish patrons commissioned dazzling pictures from some of the greatest artists in Western Europe and North America. The disarming painting of Baroness Betty de Rothschild by Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the flickering image of Auguste Renoir's double portrait of the Cahen d'Anvers daughters, John Singer Sargent's magisterial presentation of Asher Wertherimer, and Gustav Klimt's extravagant likeness of Adele Bloch Bauer serve as wonderful examples. Norman Kleeblatt will trace this rich trajectory of commissioned portraits through Pablo Picasso's defiant images of Gertrude Stein and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. With these two radical depictions, Picasso challenged the validity of naturalistic--and idealized--representation. With them, he and his adventuresome Jewish sitters denied the authenticity and meaning of the commissioned portrait.

Norman Kleeblatt has been The Jewish Museum's Susan and Elihu Rose Curator of Fine Arts since 1981. Included among the exhibitions Mr. Kleeblatt organized are The Dreyfus Affair: Art, Truth and Justice (1987), Painting a Place in America: Jewish Artists in New York, 1900-1945 (1991), and Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities (1996)—an exhibition of works by contemporary American artists who confronted Jewish stereotypes head on as they probed issues of assimilation. Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent Art, Mr. Kleeblatt's groundbreaking exhibition of 2002, highlighted the work of 13 international artists who appropriate Nazi imagery as a commentary on contemporary values. He is currently working on an exhibition that examines the competitive impact of the critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg on the emergence of Abstract Expressionism in America.