Between Paris and Texas: Marie Cronin, Portraitist of the Belle Époque

February 14-June 5, 2016

Paris emerged in the nineteenth century as an art center of the Western world; a place of pilgrimage for artists both established and fledgling. As an alternative to France’s national academy, independent centers of artistic training sprouted up in the French capital in the latter decades of the nineteenth century; these stand-alone art schools provided a way to promote and foster the anti-establishment ideals and methods of the avant-garde.

In the French capital in the opening years of the twentieth century, Marie Cronin (1867-1951), an artistic hopeful raised in East Texas, would cross paths with Catalan painter and renowned portraitist Claudio Castelucho (1870-1927). Nearly five years of study with Castelucho in Paris made a lasting impact on Cronin’s art. Upon her return to Texas, Cronin’s training abroad would enable her to secure important portrait commissions of Texas statesmen and political dignitaries. In subsequent years, Cronin had to balance her flourishing artistic career with the practicalities of running a family business when in the mid-1920s, Cronin fell into the position of presiding over a Texas railroad.

While Marie Cronin studied with Castelucho, he painted a portrait of her that was exhibited widely in European salons as well as in the United States. A recent gift to the Meadows Museum, Castelucho’s portrait of Cronin exemplifies a rare intersection – that of an early Texan artist studying with a Spanish expatriate, both of whom converged in Paris to glean from that city’s modern innovators. As such, this portrait is the impetus and point of departure for Between Paris and Texas: Marie Cronin, Portraitist of the Belle Époque, on view at the Meadows from February 14 to June 5, 2016. This focused exhibition will feature the work of both master and student: alongside Castelucho’s portrait, on public display for the first time in over a century, Cronin’s paintings demonstrate her teacher’s influence, particularly those works created during the first decade of the twentieth century.

Curated by Nicole Atzbach, Between Paris and Texas: Marie Cronin, Portraitist of the Belle Époque is the first monographic exhibition on this early Texas artist, who in many ways embodied the idea of women’s changing roles in the progressive era. On display will be works created by Cronin while abroad in Europe, as well as portraits executed stateside of Texas statesmen and American dignitaries. This exhibition hints at the enticement that European centers of art held for artists of the American West in the early twentieth century. With respect to Marie Cronin, the gathering of her work makes evident the lasting imprint of training and experiences accumulated while living in her beloved city of Paris.

This exhibition has been organized by the Meadows Museum, and is funded by a generous gift from The Meadows Foundation.

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Carrie Sanger
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