Pulse: Chatter: Behind the Scenes

An homage upon an homage at the Art Museum

By all accounts, the Cézanne and Beyond exhibit that opens February 26th at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be big — not only because it’s a Philly exclusive sure to fetch coveted tourism dollars and one that draws on collections from Malibu to Tokyo, but because it will be the first star-wattage show since the sudden death of the Museum’s director, Anne d’Harnoncourt, in June.
During d’Harnoncourt’s 26-year tenure, the Museum gained a reputation for VIP exhibits of smashing success, including a lauded Cézanne retrospective in 1995-’96. That show and the new exhibit were both organized by Museum curator Joseph J. Rishel — who also happened to be d’Harnoncourt’s husband. They were married for 37 years.  
“Anne’s real heart was linking the past and the present,” says Rishel. “And this exhibit is totally the progeny of the 1996 show. In the making of that event, we saw that art can never be the same again after Cézanne.” Alongside more than 60 works by the French master are important pieces by artists he inspired. That the theme of artistic legacy echoes d’Harnoncourt’s own influence on the city wasn’t lost on Museum staffers, who dedicated the exhibit’s catalog to the late director: “Over the past several months … so many staff members have turned their grief into the affirmative work of bringing Cézanne and Beyond to a broad public.”
That public is expected to include visitors from around the world who’ll come to see the exhibit’s glamorous extras: an eight-foot-tall Matisse on loan from Paris; two Cézannes from the Hermitage in Moscow (including The Smoker); Steve Wynn’s La Rêve by Picasso. The sweet underpinnings of an homage to d’Harnoncourt is the extra that only Philly’s art lovers will be able to see.