Arts / Museums

The DMA’s New Blockbuster Exhibit Reframes the Way We View Monet, Degas, and Matisse — Inside the Impressionist Revolution

The Show Also Allows the Dallas Museum of Art to Display Its Increasingly Lavish Collection

BY // 02.09.24

Dr. Nicole Myers, the Dallas Museum of Art’s Chief Curatorial and Research Officer, knows how familiar most are with Claude Monet’s lily-filled koi ponds or Vincent van Gogh’s sheaves of wheat. But what visitors will discover when coming to view the DMA’s brand new exhibit, featuring iconic impressionist works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Mary Cassatt, Henri Matisse, and Edgar Degas, is how progressive today’s classics felt upon their debut 150 years ago. 

“The actual story of Impressionism is not well known at all,” Dr. Myers shared during a February 8 preview of The Impressionist Revolution from Monet to Matisse, on view from February 11 to November 3, 2024. “This artwork was not just seen as radical or innovative — it was seen as offensive. It was seen as a joke. These artists were absolutely panned by the public and critics alike for precisely the qualities we celebrate about them today.” 

The new exhibit invites visitors to reframe how they view the now ubiquitous works and allows the DMA to thoughtfully display its astonishing collection — one that recently became far more lavish. 

Claude Monet, The Water Lily Pond (Clouds), 1903 at the Dallas Museum of Art
Claude Monet’s “The Water Lily Pond (Clouds)” is one of several masterworks featuring a braille label for the visually impaired.

The Dallas Museum of Art’s Impressive Impressionist Collection

Beyond the awe of the masterworks, one of the more interesting elements of The Impressionist Revolution exhibit is that the majority of pieces come from the DMA’s own holdings, an extraordinary local collection that wouldn’t be possible without the late philanthropic giant Margaret McDermott. A 2018 bequeathment from her estate included Monet’s The Water Lily Pond (Clouds), Renoir’s Blonde Braiding Her Hair, Caillebotte’s The Path in the Garden, and several more masterpieces. 

McDermott’s only child Mary McDermott Cook nicely summed up the impact of the bequest by sharing with The Dallas Morning News what she told DMA Director Agustín Arteaga in 2018: “In one fell swoop, you just became a much more important museum.”

You can certainly feel the heft of the DMA’s monumental collection as you make your way through The Impressionist Revolution, which is so absolutely imbued with iconic works that it almost reaches absurdity. At one moment, you’re looking at a still life by Paul Cézanne or Monet, only to turn and find yourself positioned in front of Degas’ pastel masterpiece Ballet Dancers on the Stage. The exhibit ends with Matisse’s towering Ivy in Flower, an exuberant work that’s often tucked away in the DMA’s storage due to its sensitivity to light. 

The quality and size of its current collection likely encouraged the DMA’s upcoming expansion project, a “radical transformation” led by Spanish architecture firm Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos. 

“As the DMA reimagines its building for the 21st century and beyond, one thing is clear: Our collection has grown in ways the museum’s founders could never have dreamed of,” Arteaga shares. 

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