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Paris, Making a Neo-Impression

Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page P04

WHAT: "Neo-Impressionism From Seurat to Paul Klee" at Paris's Musee d'Orsay.

WHEN: Now through July 10.

In Paris, the Musee D'Orsay's neo-impressionist exhibit is full of light and paintbrush strokes. Pictured: Seurat's "La Seine Courbevoie" (1885). (Private Collection)

ADMISSION: About $12.

WHY GO: Amassed from collections worldwide and the museum's own trove of impressionist-era works, the exhibition is the first survey of neo-impressionism in the country where it was born and the largest of its kind since the 1960s. The 120-plus paintings highlight the movement's key figures -- particularly Georges Seurat and Paul Signac -- as well as important artists inspired by its aesthetic, such as Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Vassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian.

Arranged stylistically, the show underscores neo-impressionism's groundbreaking technical innovations, notably pointillism, in which the artist painstakingly applied pixelated dots of paint or rectangular, mosaic-like brushstrokes.

DON'T MISS . . . the major preparatory canvas for Seurat's 1886 masterpiece, "Un Dimanche a La Grande Jatte," the work that announced neo-impressionism's arrival. It prefigures the distinctive flatness, geometry and divisionist brushwork that would come to define the movement.

The straight-on perspective, angular lines and finely detailed rendering of light in Pissarro's "Le Troupeau de Moutons" (1888) shows how fully the father of impressionism came under the spell of the neo-impressionist style. Influenced by Signac, Henri Matisse in "Luxe, Calme et Volupte" (1905) combines neo-impressionist devices like tiled brushstrokes and vivid colors to conjure his Arcadian fantasy. The painting represents a key step toward the artist's development of the color-rich Fauvist school.

EXTRAS: The Musee d'Orsay's new gallery devoted to graphic arts opened earlier this week. The gallery's inaugural show will feature drawings from Seurat, Signac, Henry Cross and other key figures of neo-impressionism.

To understand what the neo-impressionists were reacting against, take the museum's English-language tour "The Impressionists." The 90-minute guided walk meets Tuesdays at 2:30 and 4 p.m. in April, and at 4 p.m. in May. For an overview of the entire museum, take the 90-minute "Masterpieces of the Musee d'Orsay" tour at 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays. Tours are about $8; meet at the Visitors Information Desk (no reservations needed).

To absorb the history of the neighborhood where Seurat and Signac had their studios -- as did Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and other contemporaries -- take the English-language "The Village of Montmartre" tour with Paris Walks (011-33-1-48-09-21-40, ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/pariswalking; about $13.50). The tour meets Wednesday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at the Abbesses Metro station.

EATS/SLEEPS: To lay your head in Montmartre, Paris's artists' quarter, check into the budget Hotel Place Clichy (71 Rue Douai, 011-33-1-48-74-76-41, www.hotel-paris-moulin-rouge.com). The hotel is close to 128 Bis Blvd. de Clichy, where Seurat had his studio. Doubles from $108 per night; the rate drops to $85 when you book three nights or more.

Within walking distance from the Musee d'Orsay, the boutique Hotel Montalembert (3 Rue de Montalembert, 011-33-1-45-49-68-68, www.montalembert.com) in the 7th arrondissement has an "Enjoy Rive Gauche" deal that includes lodging for two, breakfast and a pair of three-day passes granting front-of-the-line access to a slew of Paris museums. Cost: about $410 per night, with a three-night minimum.

PACKAGES: Air France has a three-night "Escapade to Paris" deal that includes airfare, lodging, breakfasts, a Seine cruise and a city map. For travel in April and May, rates start at $749 for one person and $1,318 for two (plus taxes and fees). The rate is for Boston or New York departures; for D.C., add $80 per person. Details: 800-237-2623, www.airfrance-holidays.com.

INFORMATION: Musee d'Orsay (011-33-1-40-49-49-78, www.musee-orsay.fr) is at 1 Rue de Bellechasse in the 7th arrondissement. Metro: Solferino.

-- Seth Sherwood

© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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