FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2006
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Pierre Daura's Virginia Landscapes on Display
New exhibition showcases important 20th century artist
Richmond, VA – A new exhibition at the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) provides an opportunity to see Pierre Daura's paintings of Virginia. Pierre Daura's Vision of Virginia features eighty-five works presented in three galleries. Emphasis is given to Daura's paintings of the landscapes of Rockbridge County and his depictions of the people there and in Lynchburg, where he taught art for many years at Randolph-Macon Woman's College. The artist's European career is also surveyed, so that those unfamiliar with Daura will be able to understand how he incorporated the dynamics of European modernism to invigorate his canvases.
"Daura was never overly concerned with making a profit off his paintings," said Dr. William M. S. Rasmussen, Lora Robins Curator of Art and curator of this exhibition. "As a result, the vast majority of Daura's Virginia works are in the hands of private owners—the Virginians he knew and painted in Rockbridge Baths and Lynchburg. With his daughter Martha's help, the VHS has received a number of the paintings and identified private owners to secure loans for this showing. It is a unique opportunity to see a more complete body of Daura's Virginia work.”
Daura was a Spanish-born painter who, in 1927, met Richmond art student Louise Blair in Paris. They married the next year and in 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, relocated to the Blair summer homestead in Rockbridge County. Daura and his wife had been living in St. Cirq-Lapopie in the south of France. This small, medieval town was a great source of inspiration for Daura's work.
Daura, pained by the rise of fascism in his native Spain, returned to fight Franco. Wounded and sent back to France to recover, he lost his Spanish citizenship when Franco declared victory in 1939. Five months later, Hitler invaded Poland and thus began the Second World War. The Dauras, who were already in Virginia visiting Louise's family, stayed throughout the duration of the war, and Pierre, and his daughter Martha became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1943.
Although Daura continued to paint, his experiences in the Spanish Civil War had a deep impact on him. The artist said, "I can't imagine that the brush in my hand [once] painted the soft and curved lines of a landscape, because today it only wants to paint the rough and straight lines of war, blood, and destruction."
But Daura found serenity living among the mountains and people of Rockbridge Baths, and peaceful, religious themes began to appear in his art. The Dauras found a welcoming environment among the people and landscapes of Virginia. He taught at Randolph-Macon Woman's College and Lynchburg College. The Honorable Elliot S. Schewel, former trustee of the VHS, had the pleasure of not only knowing but also painting with the artist. "I took painting classes from a local artist who was friends with Daura. He would come to her classes to offer criticism and suggestions. I had the good fortune to benefit from his instruction," said Schewel. "We eventually became good friends. He and Louise were such wonderful people. Pierre was a warm spirit—his eyes always sparkled when he talked, and he had a great sense of humor. Once while visiting the Dauras, my son fell and skinned his knee. He was crying and carrying on, and Pierre, in an effort to appease him, went over to the wall and took down a painting and gave it to my son. We still have that painting." The Schewels loaned two paintings to the VHS for the exhibition.
Throughout the fifties, the Dauras split their time annually between Rockbridge Baths and St. Cirq. "At some point during these years," Rasmussen notes, "Daura's paintings took on a new goal, to rekindle the worship of nature, an attitude that had been largely forgotten in America since the nineteenth century." The artist said, "I do not believe we should neglect anything to inspire men with the love of their native soil."
Daura was a significant artist in late-1920s Paris. The genesis of his influences comes from an early apprenticeship with painter and art theorist Émile Bernard, who in turn exposed Daura to the philosophies and theories of Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Cézanne. Daura counted among his friends the painter Joaquín Torres-García and was taught by José Ruiz Blasco, Pablo Picasso's father. While in Paris, he joined Michel Seuphor and Torres-García to organize Cercle et Carré, a group of artists who called themselves "Constructivists." Delving into the world of art theory and near-abstraction with so many strong personalities helped Daura to create his own style—a free and joyful expression with heavy use of light and color. Daura's paintings are on display through January 14, 2007, and educational programming includes a gallery walk with Dr. Rasmussen at noon on Wednesday, September 20, 2006.
Although a private, non-profit institution, the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) is the official state historical society of Virginia. The VHS is located at 428 N. Boulevard. The Story of Virginia, An American Experience, a 10,000-square-foot exhibition with more than a thousand objects covering all of Virginia history from prehistoric times to the present, is featured in the Robins Center for Virginia History. Hours: Monday–Saturday 10am–5pm
and Sunday 1pm–5pm (Museum Galleries only). Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors 55+ ($2/Tuesdays–galleries only), $3/children and students, free/members. Admission to the galleries is free on Sundays. For group tour information, call (804) 342-9652. For more information, please call (804) 358-4901 or visit www.vahistorical.org.