By Stacey Keenan -- Daily Staff Correspondent
WINCHESTER -- On a quiet Monday morning, two large tractor-trailers waited in a parking lot to be unloaded. The vehicles go unnoticed by unknowing passers-by, but what the trucks are carrying is anything but unassuming.
Soon, the trucks are emptied, one crate at a time. The crates are quickly transferred to a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled space at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. One by one, each crate is opened, revealing priceless pieces that bring the legacy of early 20th-century Parisian modern art to the Shenandoah Valley.
The works make up the newest special exhibition at the museum: On Saturday, Matisse, Picasso, and Modern Art in Paris opens in the museum's Changing Exhibition Gallery.
The exhibit -- which features 51 pieces by more than 20 of the world's both lesser and more widely known masters of modern art -- is part of a statewide tour marking the first time since the 1940s that selected works from the collection of T. Catesby Jones (1880-1946) will be reunited.
Jones, who grew up in Virginia's Tidewater region, was a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College and the University of Virginia School of Law, and as a successful maritime lawyer in New York became a prominent collector.
"Jones was very influenced by Jeanne Bucher, an art dealer in Paris, during the 1920s. She was well-connected to the Paris School, and she introduced him to these artists while they were getting started," says Julie Armel, director of marketing and public relations at the museum. "He also supported some of them, and helped them when they came to New York as refugees during World War II."
Most of the collection was assembled between 1924 and 1939. Jones later bequeathed most of his collection of paintings, sculpture and works on paper to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond and the University of Virginia Art Museum. Both institutions co-organized the traveling exhibit, which will be on display at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley through Nov. 29. After, it will head to the William King Regional Arts Center in Abingdon before moving on to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.
"These works tell a rich story about a major and transformative period in the history of modern art. We think that viewers will be equally intrigued by the contents of the collection and by the story of a collector and his deep attachment to the experimental, cutting-edge art of his time," says Matthew Affron, Ph.D., curator of modern art at the University of Virginia Art Museum and one of the exhibit's curators.
In addition to Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, the exhibit includes the work of such artists as Marc Chagall, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Raoul Dufy, André Masson, Georges Rouault, Jacques Lipchitz, Stanley William Hayter, and Jean Lurçat.
This exhibit is the museum's fourth collaboration with the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, a partnership that Jennifer Esler, the museum's executive director, says is a "wonderful win-win situation."
"It helps the VMFA fulfill its mission, and it helps us fulfill our mission, that universal desire to learn something new, to see something beautiful," she says. "We want everyone to come and enjoy it, it's a great exhibit."
Naomi Knappenberger, the museum's curator, hopes that patrons will come away with an understanding of the difference between modern and other types of art.
"It's the first departure from representative art into explorations of form and color. Modern art is distinguished from a more traditional way of thinking about art," she says.
The museum has many events planned to complement the exhibit. On Aug. 28, the museum shows the celebrated 1951 musical "An American in Paris" outside on the big screen. Then, on Aug. 30, Affron will present his illustrated lecture "Collecting the Modern: T. Catesby Jones and Art in France, 1924-1946," which tells the story behind the collection. A print-making workshop on Sept. 19 will channel patrons' inner Picasso, and Tuesdays in October bring the Start with Art: Youth Painting Series.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley's Matisse, Picasso, and Modern Art in Paris exhibit opens in the museum's Changing Exhibition Gallery on Saturday and runs through Nov. 29. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and closed on Monday. Admission is free to museum members. For non-members, admission to the museum only is $8 for adults, $6 for children ages 7 to 18 and free for children age 6 and under. Admission to the galleries is free on Wednesday mornings from 11 a.m. until noon. For more information, call the museum at 888-556-5799 or visit the Web at www.shenandoahmuseum.org.