Celebrating European Capitals of Culture is nothing new, whatever Liverpool may think. In the last half of the 19th century, Paris was the hottest place to see and be seen in and a new, much anticipated exhibition on the subject of how great the place was and how artists loved it opens today at the National Gallery. Americans in Paris 1860 - 1900 features James Abbott McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent and Mary Cassatt as the leading stars among a range of minor impressionists from the era; the stand-out painting is Sargent's mysterious Madame X that scandalised society when it was first unveiled because the top of her dress is rather low and one of the straps originally snaked down her shoulder until Sargent painted over it and restored it to a more prim position on the lady's decolletage. Another big attraction in the exhibition is Whistler's famously austere and well recognised Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Artist's Mother.
Previews are positive and even on the verge of glowing in the Telegraph:
The organiser Kathy Adler has wangled loans of pictures so grand you can't believe they are here, including those astonishing Whistlers and Sargents. But she has also trawled through small US galleries in the Midwest and South and discovered works by artists who are little-known even to specialists in American painting - and there isn't a dud among them.
Americans in Paris 1860-1900 opens today at the National Gallery and will be in the Sainsbury Wing until 21 May 2006. This exhibition has an admission charge, please go to the National Gallery website here for more details.