The Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University and the Musée d’Orsay partner to present an exhibition entitled Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today in New York and Le Modèle noir, de Géricault à Matisse in Paris. The exhibition will be on view at the Wallach from October 24, 2018 to February 10, 2019, and will then be expanded at the Musée d'Orsay from March 26 to July 14, 2019.


This exhibition explores the changing modes of representation of the black figure as central to the development of modern art. The models' interactions with and influences on painters, sculptors and photographers are highlighted through archival photographs, correspondence and films. The artists featured in the exhibition depicted black subjects in a manner counter to typical representations of the period. The works included highlight the little-known, multiracial aspect of each artist’s milieu.

In New York, the presentation focuses specifically on the black female figure, beginning with Edouard Manet’s 1860s portrayals of Laure, the model who posed as the maid in Olympia. In Paris, a broader and expanded treatment of the black figure begins with portaits by Marie-Guillemine Benoist and Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault at the start of the 19th century.

In both New York and Paris, the exhibition explores the work of Manet’s Impressionist-era cohort, including Frédéric Bazille, Edgar Degas and the photographer Nadar; sculptors including Charles Henri Joseph Cordier and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux; paintings, drawings and prints of Henri Matisse (before and after his 1930s Harlem visits); the portraiture of diverse artists of the Harlem Renaissance, including Charles Alston and William H. Johnson; and the legacy of these depictions for successive generations of postwar modern and contemporary artists, from Romare Bearden through to the current moment.

By taking a multidisciplinary approach that focuses on the connection between the history of art and the history of ideas, the exhibition will study aesthetic, political, social and racial issues as well as the realm of the imagination—all of which is revealed in the representation of black figures in visual arts from the French and American abolition eras to the present day.

The curator of the exhibition in New York is Denise Murrell, Ph.D., Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University.

The curators for the Paris exhibition are Cécile Debray, Director of the Musée de l’Orangerie, Stéphane Guégan, scientific advisor to the President of the Musées d’Orsay and Orangerie, Denise Murrell, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, Isolde Pludermacher and Edouard Papet, curators at the Musée d’Orsay.

The exhibition is based on Denise Murrell’s 2013 dissertation for Columbia University’s department of art history and archaeology, as is the forthcoming Posing Modernity catalog, to be co-published by Yale University Press. The exhibition has been developed through the generous support of the Ford Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art. It is organized by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University in the City of New York, and the Etablissement public des musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris.

For more information on Musée d'Orsay please visit:

Group Visits

Come as a group and learn more about Wallach Art Gallery exhibitions. The Wallach offers guided gallery tours as well as self-guided visit opportunities.

Visits are free of charge and require two-weeks minimum advance notice, pending availability.

To learn more and register your group, click here.


October 24, 2018 - February 10, 2019

Curated By

Denise Murrell, PhD, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Wallach Art Gallery.

The Baltimore Museum of Art
Jane Beckett and Deborah Cherry Collection
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Centre national des arts plastique
Centre Pompidou / Musée national d’art moderne–Centre de création industrielle
Elizabeth Colomba
Renée Cox
Dallas Museum of Art
Dr. Fritz and Mrs. Rita Daguillard
Des Moines Art Center
Detroit Institute of Arts
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Fisk University Galleries
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Fondation Dina Vierny–Musée Maillol
Glenn and Amanda Fuhrman Collection
Jean Pierre Schneider courtesy Galerie Berthet-Aittouarès
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Lorraine O’Grady courtesy Alexander Gray Associates
The Harmon & Harriet Kelley Foundation for the Arts
Ellen Gallagher courtesy Hauser & Wirth Gallery
Jiménez-Colón Collection
Library of Congress
The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation
Musée d’Orsay
Musée du quai Branly–Jacques Chirac
Musée Fabre
Musée Matisse Le Cateau-Cambrésis
Musée Matisse, Nice
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Museum of Modern Art
Museum of the City of New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Morgan Library & Museum
National Gallery of Art
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
New York Public Library
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
The Phillips Collection
Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Szépmüvészeti Muzeum/Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
Gerard Valerius courtesy Nomad Gallery


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