The collector who ushered the Impressionists into the Louvre

A collection of works donated to the nation by Etienne Moreau-Nélaton on display at the Grand Palais

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Paris

The collection of works given to the nation by Etienne Moreau-Nélaton (1859-1927) is on display at the Grand Palais until 22 July. As well as an art historian and collector, the donor was a painter and potter of some distinction, and a connoisseur of illuminated manuscripts. In the early years of the century, this many-sided character built up a collection of paintings, drawings and engravings which includes all the great names from Corot to the Impressionists. Some of the highlights are forty pictures by Corot, among them “La cathédrale de Chartres”, “Les coquelicots” and “Le pont d’Argenteuil”, works by Manet and, most famous of all, Manet’s “Déjeuner sur l’herbe”. The collection was given to the Louvre in three separate lots (1906, 1907 and 1919), subject to precise stipulations obliging the museum to exhibit the works. At that time, the academic world was by no means united in its estimation of Impressionist painting, and it is to Moreau-Nélaton’s credit that the painters concerned entered the hallowed portals of the Louvre for the first time.

His collection also included works by Delacroix, Géricault, Couture—the teacher of Dégas—and painters of the Barbizon school. On his death, in 1927, he left the nation a further 6,000 drawings and 3,000 prints. The Exhibition at the Grand Palais features all the paintings donated by Moreau-Nélaton, including some of his own compositions, together with a selection of the drawings and prints he willed to the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.

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