For Gauguin, a Texas Toast

Sunday, December 18, 2005

WHAT: "Gauguin and Impressionism" at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Tex.

WHEN: Through March 26

HOW MUCH : $12 (with half-price tickets on Tuesday). Advance tickets for entry at a specific time are available through Ticketmaster ( http://www.ticketmaster.com/ ).

WHY GO: It's an unlikely concept for an exhibit, considering that Gauguin -- along with van Gogh, Seurat and Cezanne -- is considered one of the most influential post -impressionist painters, known for his bold, colorful images of life in the South Seas. But make no mistake: Gauguin is also viewed as a major player in the late-19th-century world of impressionism who, in his time, was exhibited as much as such masters as Monet, and even more than Renoir or Sisley.

The Kimbell exhibit marks the first time Gauguin's impressionist paintings and sculptures have appeared en masse, a total of 65, in one setting. Some may remember a Gauguin retrospective that landed in Washington in 1988; just one room contained 16 works of art featuring Gauguin's impressionism. "This is an exhibition of all of his great works from the first 15 years of his career," explains "Gauguin and Impressionism" curator Richard R. Brettell. "It will be the first time anyone will see more than just a handful of his early work."

Why have Gauguin's impressionist works been so inaccessible for art patrons? For one, the paintings have been confined to a Copenhagen museum and were only just made available due to its renovation. Secondly, Brettell admits, "The paintings are not easy. He was a difficult artist. He pushed paintings into realms of mystery and ugliness."

DON'T MISS . . . Gauguin's rarely viewed "The Singer" (1880), considered one of the most important impressionist sculptures. It's a bonus for visitors since the piece wasn't supposed to have made the trip to Texas from Denmark because of its fragility.

"To Make a Bouquet" (1880) is a completely original painting in that it illustrates the ingredients for a still life -- flowers lying flat with a bowl on a chair and a door to a garden opened slightly behind them -- rather than the completed bouquet itself. The "Kelton Box" (1884), named after the foundation that owns it, is "the weirdest object ever created by an artist in the entire history of art," Brettell promises. This wooden box features a sleeping child carved into the inside and leather fasteners whose purpose to this day remain a mystery.

EXTRAS: Those unfamiliar with the Fort Worth area will be happy to learn that the Kimbell is near some major U.S. art museums. The Amon Carter Museum (3501 Camp Bowie Blvd., 817-738-1933, http://www.cartermuseum.org/ ; free) is just a two-minute walk away and encompasses a wide range of 19th- and 20th-century American art. Just across the street from the Kimbell is the new Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (3200 Darnell St., 866-824-5566, http://www.mamfw.org/ ; $8). More impressionism can be found at the Dallas Museum of Art (1717 North Harwood St., Dallas, 214-922-1200, http://www.dallasmuseumofart.org/ ; $10).

Beginning at 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 11, the Darnell Street Auditorium, across from the museum, will host a free daylong symposium on Gauguin featuring scholars from the United States and Europe discussing the artist's involvement with impressionism.

EATS: Joe T. Garcia's (2201 N. Commerce St., 817-626-4356), a Fort Worth institution, offers enchiladas and other Mexican fare that keep the place packed with locals and tourists alike, according to a recent writeup in Texas Monthly magazine. Dishes run about $10 to $12. Michaels (3413 W. Seventh Street, 817-877-3413) also features Southwestern cuisine, and art patrons may be tickled by some original Warhol paintings that decorate the dining room. Meals such as crab cakes and ribeye steaks run $20 to $25.

For a more upscale experience, try the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro (2406 N. Main St., 817-740-8810), managed by Texas hotshot chef Tim Love. There are plenty of steaks to be had, but the restaurant also offers a blue-crab-crusted halibut and a roasted acorn squash chile relleno. Entrees range from $20 to $34.

SLEEPS: The Ashton Hotel (610 Main St., 866-327-4866, http://theashtonhotel.com/ ; from $260 a night double) offers luxurious digs with all rooms featuring king-size beds. For something a little different, check out Etta's Place (200 W. Third St., 866-355-5760; http://www.ettas-place.com/ ; from $125), a quirky downtown B&B where each of the 10 rooms is named after a member of Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang or his female companion.

Brand-name-seekers might want to try the Renaissance Worthington (200 Main St., 800-468-3571, http://marriott.com/property/propertypage/DFWDT ), about 2 1/2 miles from the Kimbell, where a double room starts at $179.

INFO: The Kimbell Art Museum is at 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd. Details: 817-332-8451, http://www.kimbellart.org/ .

-- John Maynard

© 2005 The Washington Post Company