Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color

I’m no art connoisseur, but as a kid I dreamt of becoming a famous artist. Much to my grandmother’s chagrin, I would scatter fabric paint all over her antique coffee table and create a “masterpiece,” as I called it, or “huge mess,” as she saw it.

It was a childhood phase that didn’t last very long, but art and the attempt to create it is a pastime I’ve always respected and enjoyed – and one I was quickly reminded of last weekend when I visited the Speed Art Museum’s new exhibit, Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color.

The art exhibition, organized by the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tenn. and the Speed Art Museum, features more than 80 paintings by renowned French Impressionists and Post-Impressionsts, as well as artists who came before and after their time.

Such virtuosos include Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri Mattise, who crafted vivid portraits, landscapes and still life scenes of daily life in Paris and other locales in Europe.

As I walked through the gallery, I was captivated by the color. Though some of the paintings were a bit confusing and even looked like something I was capable of drawing, the bright, bold hues and swift brush strokes brought both abstract and concrete meaning to each work.

I’m not one to interpret art, but I certainly felt a sense of longing and excitement peering at the seascapes of Venice and murals of children celebrating on the street or sitting peacefully in a vibrant garden in France.

Each image had a piece of life easily detected inside the stillness of the painting and  drew a feeling of nostalgia of a time long ago I could only experience through the eyes of an artist.

When I was a kid, I usually threw a fit when I was forced to visit a museum, but at the Speed I suddenly realized the fascination so many people develop for artwork.

The experience was calm and relaxing and a bit inspirational as well. Walking from painting to painting, I could picture myself in each of the scenes, whether it was the portrait of a ballet dancer, women dancing at a ball or children sitting on a gondola drifting through Italy.

A swift stroll through the world of Europe represented by color was enough to leave me looking to book a quick vacation to France.  As the gallery culminated with an illustration of a man riding a horse through Paris, I felt a smile stretch across my face as I fantasized of a trip to the City of Light and reminisced of my childhood when I believed I, too, would create a masterpiece worthy of hanging in an art museum.

Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color is open now through May 6. For more information, visit


Speed Art Museum
2035 S. Third St.


Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m.
Galleries are closed Monday and Tuesday.


$5 for members; $15 for non-members
Children under 18 are free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

Special Events

Performance in the Galleries:
Classical Music
Thursday, Feb. 9: noon to 2 p.m.

Une Soirée du Cinéma: Film Screening of Moulin Rouge!
Friday, Feb. 10: 6:30 to 9 p.m.

Art Sparks Family Studio: Impressionism
Saturday, Feb. 11: noon to 3 p.m.

Contact writer Ashley Anderson at, 502.498.2051.