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Library’s Portrait of Erik Satie Taking Germany by Storm

Northwestern’s recently restored 1891 painting now on loan in Frankfurt

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February 12, 2014 | by Wendy Leopold

Erik Satie

Portrait of French composer Erik Satie by Ramon Casas.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- French avant-garde composer Erik Satie and Northwestern University Library are sharing a bow of sorts in Frankfurt, Germany, where the library’s recently restored painting “The Bohemian: Poet of Montmartre” is on display in an art show titled “The Spirit of Montmartre.”

The 1891 portrait of Satie is now on loan from Northwestern to the Schirn Kunsthalle, one of Germany’s most important art exhibit venues. The gallery also borrowed works from London’s Tate Gallery and Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum for its show about “fin de siècle” Montmartre, the bohemian district of Paris where Satie and Picasso met.

But it is Satie’s portrait by Catalan artist Ramon Casas that is attracting all the attention. “Curators were amazed by the painting’s recent conservation treatment undertaken by Northwestern,” said Scott Devine, University Library’s Marie A. Quinlan Director of Preservation and Conservation. “When we opened the crate, everyone in the gallery stopped working to see it.”

National media were quick to learn of the painting, and photos of it soon appeared in newspapers, weeklies and other outlets across Germany, including two of the nation’s leading newspapers. The painting’s image now adorns outdoor banners advertising the exhibit as well as shopping bags in the museum gift store. 

Charles Deering acquired the painting shortly after it was completed. Bequeathed to Northwestern in 1956 by his daughter Mrs. Chauncey McCormick, it recently underwent restoration to remove a varnish applied in the 1970s.

As a result of the restoration, “The Bohemian’s” original colors and precise brushwork are now fully visible -- and clearly appreciated by its European audience.

Topics: University News