The Volpini Exhibition, 1889

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Poster of the 1889 Exhibition of Paintings by the Impressionist and Synthetist Group, at Café des Arts, Volpini manager.[1]

The Volpini Exhibition was an exhibition of paintings arranged by Paul Gauguin and his circle on the walls of the Café des Arts on the Champ de Mars, not far from the official art pavilion of the 1899 Exposition universelle.[2] A poster and an illustrated catalogue were printed but the show of Paintings by the Impressionist and Synthetist Group (Peintures du Groupe Impressioniste et Synthétiste) was ignored by the national press and finally proved to be a failure: "Nothing sold", was the bitter summary for the participants.


The official art exhibition at the Académie des Beaux-Arts accompanying the Exposition universelle displayed works only by invited artists, and furthermore, the selection of works to be exhibited had to pass the judgement of official juries. Neither Gauguin nor his friends could hope to enter this exhibition. But by chance, Emile Schuffenecker found another way that their work could be presented to the public. Monsieur Volpini, the owner of the Café des Arts, had a problem: the mirrors he had ordered in Italy to decorate the interior of his café, would not arrive in time for the opening of the Exposition universelle.[citation needed] It was proposed that the gap could be filled with a display of paintings by Schuffenecker and his friends.


Gauguin, through Schuffenecker, ensured that the Neo-Impressionists Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Henri-Edmond Cross and Pissarro were excluded from the exhibition.[3] He proposed to include:

  • 10 paintings each, by Schuffenecker, Guillaumin, Gauguin and Bernard
  • 2 paintings each, by Roy and Fauché, "the man from Nancy"
  • 6 paintings, by Vincent[4]

Guillaumin as well as Theo van Gogh, acting for his brother Vincent, refused to participate, while Anquetin, Laval and Monfreid joined the group - and finally, Bernard split his contribution: two of his paintings were shown under the pseudonym Ludovic Nemo and described as peintures pètroles.

The final participation was as follows:

Catalogue layout and illustrations[edit]

Paul Gauguin, Roches Noires Drawing, 1889, exhibition catalogue frontispiece

The catalogue for the exhibition has a somewhat idiosyncratic layout. The title page is followed by a list of contributing artists (Exposants), accompanied by a reproduction of Gauguin's "Aux Rochers noires". The next double-page lists Gauguin's contribution (nos. 31-47) and reproduces Gauguin's Les Faneuses, and the one following Schuffenecker's list (nos. 55-67, 78, 69-73, 83) together with Ramasseuses de varech (Yport). Émile Bernard continues (nos. 7-19bis, 75-88), illustrated by Reverie. Now, Louis Anquetin (Nos. 1-6bis) precedes Louis Roy (nos. 49-54bis) and an illustration of his Gardeur de cochons. Léon Fauché (nos. 22, 23, 25, 26, 28) and a reproduction of his Paysan occupies the next two pages, Charles Laval (nos. 84, 85, 89-96) and George Daniel (nos. 20-21bis) continue; Femme lisant of the latter is illustrated. The two final pages of the catalogue list two works by Ludovic Némo (nos. 74, 87) accompanied by an untitled reproduction, and note that an album of lithographs by Bernard and Gauguin can be seen on demand (Visible sur demande Album de Lithographies, par Paul Gauguin et Émile Bernard).

Selected works from the catalogue[edit]

Notes, references and sources[edit]

Notes and references
  1. ^ Poster, 39,8 x 28,6 cm, printed by E. Watelet, 1889
  2. ^ Lucie-Smith, Edward. (1972) Symbolist Art. London: Thames & Hudson, p. 94. ISBN 0500201250
  3. ^ "Gauguin, Paul." by Rodolphe Rapetti, Grove Art Online, Oxford Art Online, Oxford University Press. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  4. ^ Letter to Schuffenecker, c. : see Malingue no.
  • Catalogue de L'Exposition de Peintures du Groupe Impressioniste et Synthétiste faite dans le local de M. Volpini au Champ-de-Mars 1889, Impr. Watelet; reprinted by Watelet-Arbelot, 1971, and republished in Modern Art in Paris, ed. Theodore Reff, vol. 28, New York & London 1982
  • Rewald, John: Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin, revised edition: Secker & Warburg, London 1978, pp. 255-265, illustrated
  • Siberchicot, Clément : L'Exposition Volpini, 1889. Paul Gauguin, Émile Bernard, Charles Laval : une avant-garde au coeur de l'Exposition universelle, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2011, illustrated