Everson winding up Turner to C (c)zanne

Last of film series screens this Sunday; Show is up until Jan. 3

"We're in the home stretch now," said Everson Museum director Steven Kern good-naturedly on his way into the Hosmer Auditorium last Sunday afternoon. "So no more lolly-gagging!"

Kern had just walked downstairs from the Everson's museum shop, across the spacious lobby and by the massive signature curling staircase, all crowded with visitors for the touring exhibition Turner to C (c)zanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales -- also dubbed A Brush with Greatness. This exhibition was already scheduled when Kern first arrived in Syracuse, but he has embraced it as his own. His evident pleasure and enthusiasm has not dimmed since the opening two and half months ago, and the museum -- supported by a host of spin-off events in other arts venues -- has offered a steady stream of special talks, films and activities.

Last Sunday Kern gave a talk on the art collecting scene both here and abroad that rescued the work of Impressionists until a time they could be appreciated. The Davies exhibition, which is touring U.S. cities during renovation of the National Museum Wales, is the result of what Kern calls the "visionary" decision of two Welsh sisters -- the spinster coal heiresses Gwendolyn and Margaret Davies of Cardiff -- to focus their art collection on Impressionist paintings that would in turn launch a national museum that would make these and other world-class works of art accessible for the Welsh people.

Kern discussed the Davies collection in the context of similar wealthy collectors during the years 1880 to 1930 and beyond -- Samuel Courtauld of London, Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer of Chicago, Durand-Ruel in Boston, Sterling and Francine Clark of New York City, Albert Barnes of Philadelphia -- and the differing climates for innovation in art in France, with its rigid classical tradition, the U.K. and the comparatively free-wheeling and newly prosperous U.S. Much of the impulse of this collecting -- like the choice of cities for the current U.S. tour -- sprang from the conviction that people living in the hinterlands should have access to art where they live.

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