Museum Spotlight: Tours Museum of Fine Art

The former palace of the Archbishops of Tours (4th - 18th centuries) houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Tours.  It is a Monument Historique and a major site in the Loire Valley.

Its renowned collections include one of the largest collections of Italian primitives after the Louvre, making it one of the richest museums in France.

Bois transposé sur toile collée sur bois, peuplier H. 71,1 cm L. 93,7 cm. © MBA Tours, cliché Marc Jeanneteau

During the Revolution, it has had many uses: a theater, a surgical school, and then a library.  Since 1792, because of the passionate efforts of Charles-Antoine Rougeot, founder of the city’s art school, the art seized during the Revolution from churches, monasteries, chateaux’s, and the houses of emmigrants was placed in the palace.  The works came from the abbeys of Marmoutier, de Bourgueil, de la Riche, the chateaux’s of Richelieu and de Chanteloup.  These private collections had works of prestigious artists such as Philippe de Champaigne, Eustache Le Sueur, Francois Boucher, and Jean Pierre Houel, which are the basis of the museum’s collection.  By departmental decree on the 14th of Ventose of the 3rd year or March 4, 1795, the former Palace of the Archbishops officially became a museum open to the public.

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours.18th Century Garden facade © MBA Tours

The masterpieces of the collection include paintings by Mantegna, Rubens, Rembrandt, Le Sueur, Champaigne, Nattier, Boucher, Restout, Hubert Robert, Perronneau.  Arranged in the magnificent reception halls, they recall 18th century palace life with the presence of lavish furniture, sculptures, and decorative arts.

The 19th century is well represented by the Neo-Classical (Suvee, Taillasson), Romantic (Vinchon), Oriental (Belly, Chasseriau, Delacroix), Realism (Bastien-Lepage, Cazin, Gervex), Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism (Monet, Degas, Henri Martin, Le Sidaner).

© MBA Tours

Salon Régence. © MBA Tours

The contemporary collection has developed a lot during the past two years.  In the new gallery, the collection includes Asse, Briggs, Buraglio, Calder, Davidson, Debre, and Peinado in addition to the exceptional loans of Soulages, Hartung, and finally a Picasso from the Nantes Museum of Fine Art.  The Musée des Beaux-Arts of Tours conserves paintings and furniture by Silvano Bozzolini’s Rythmes Contraste, Bicyclette by Philippe Compagnon (1980), le fauteuil de Mathieu Mategot (1953) and the lamp Tahiti by Ettore Sottsass (1981) for the Centre National des Arts Plastique (CNAP).

These new additions are a part of a diverse cultural offering of painting, music, literature, and dance, and present the opportunity to discover or rediscover the museum multiple ways.  Throughout the year, the curators and Education Department team offer diverse exhibitions, concerts, conferences, and thematic visits.

20th Century Gallery © MBA Tours

Young visitors are equally encouraged to visit the museum with their family and take advantage of the site using Le Musée amusant (Make Fun at the Museum).  This program purposes  enjoyable courses and activities that are offered by the Education department in their teaching studios.

In honor of the occasion of Martin de Tours’ (316-397) 1700th birthday, the museum will open an exhibit from October 7, 2016 – January 8, 2017 dedicated to the founder of the city, whose influence spread far beyond Europe.  This exhibition will bring together many masterpieces from presitigious national and international collections only for this anniversary celebration as part of the national program of commemorations of 2016.  

To complement the exhibition, digital information on the museum website will expand the educational content by presenting historical sites and monuments that relates to the heritage of Martin de Tours as well as interpretation of musical pieces.  Because of the depth of this program, the Ministry of Culture and Communications has labeled this event an « Exposition d’intérêt national » (Exhibition of National Interest).

The Musée des Beaux-Arts of Tours has participated in two past FRAME exhibitions.

The first exhibition was A Voluptuous Taste: French Paintings from the era of Madame Pompadour (October 8, 2008 - January 12, 2009) that then traveled to the Portland Art Museum (February 7 – May 17, 2009).  This exhibition brought together the French masters of the 18th century from 1745 – 1765: Boucher, Chardin, Coypel, Fragonard, Greuze, Hubert Robert, Vanloo, and Vien.  The exhibition explored the aethestics of the era of Madame de Pompadour and the Enlightenment.  The paintings came primarily from FRAME member museums.

During 2013, the Tours Museum of Fine Arts and the Fabre Museum in Montpellier organized the first solo retrospective for François-André Vincent (1746-1816), François-André Vincent (1746-1816), Un artiste entre Fragonard et David (François-André Vincent (1746-1816), an artist between Fragonard and David), who was one of the Neoclassical masters.  The exhibition was organized on the occasion of the edition of the catalogue raisonné of the artist written by Jean-Pierre Cuzin, Honorary Curator in Chief of the paintings for the Louvre Museum (Arthena Books).The FRAME network was a partner for the exhibition because of the vast and complimentary collections, specifically for the subjects of morality and mythology inspired by antiquity.

The Ministry of Culture and Communications labeled both of these “Exhibitions of National Interest.”

Presentation of the Education Department

The Education Department has three educators.

Each year the museum welcomes 15,000 children and offers 30 themed visits often paired with an activity in the art studio where painting, sculpting, and photography are accessible.  These free visits have multiple objectives:
• To better acquaint patrons with the museum of fine arts and to better understand its missions
• To engage the curiosity of students and engage their reflection on masterpieces in order to teach them art
• To stimulate their creativity with regular hands on art education
• To learn to decode a work’s artistic and historical references to other art and history to establish links with other disciplines such as history, literature, music, dance, theater, or cinema

In addition to the themes proposed in the program, the Education Department helps teachers design a curriculum related to a specific class project.  As well, the Education Department responds to an increasing amount of requests come from specialized schools like the children’s hospital of Tours, which supports deaf children.

Since 2009, the Education department has actively participated in the FRAME project Music and Art.

Linguistic exchange Project within the FRAME Network

Following a FRAME supported professional exchange during 2012 of an educator from Tours who traveled to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, a project has gradually developed. This is to continue the exchange (on the model of the project initiated by the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond) allowing French students to share knowledge on the Musée des Beaux-Arts of Tours in English and through a multidisciplinary approach.

This project needed a FRAME partner.  It was presented during the 2015 FRAME annual meeting at the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) and SLAM joined the project.

Two middle school classes of 8th graders will participate in this multidisciplinary project during the 2016-2017 school year.

The project has multiple objectives:
• Create an exchange with one class linked to a North American FRAME museum
• Help students discover the collections of the Musée des Beaux-Arts ofTours and the Saint Louis Art Museum
• Learn how to describe works of art
• Prepare in class and both in English and French how to look at a work of art
• Share knowledge about the masterpieces between French and American students.  There is a possibility to record or film these descriptions of works and to share the experience on the Internet.

The Musée des Beaux-Arts of Tours eagerly awaits the start of the multidisciplinary project which will, again, enable the FRAME member museums to come closer on both side of the Atlantic.
Please visit our website for more details.