From the late 1960s, when Janice H. Levin and her husband, Philip, made their first foray as collectors into the competitive field of Impressionism, until her final purchase (of a Boudin) in 1998, Mrs. Levin assembled a remarkable, and remarkably personal, art collection, mostly of paintings but also of works on paper and small bronzes, all by French artists or artists working in France. Once acquired by Mrs. Levin, these objects were enjoyed almost exclusively by her private circle of family and friends, in the domestic sphere of her New York apartment. Some of the works have never before or rarely been published, and many have not been exhibited in decades. The exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, for which this publication is the accompanying catalogue is thus the first opportunity for the public to enjoy the abundant fruits of Mrs. Levin's impulse to collect: specifically, five Renoirs, three Monets, three Pissarros, four Vuillards, four Bonnards, and much more, dating to as early as the early 1840s for a Corot portrait to as late as 1954 for a Giacometti bust.
Each of the works is illustrated in full color and discussed in the context of the artist's development, the commission or situation in which the artist made it, and its inherent formal and compositional qualities. The author, Richard Shone, is a noted art historian and lively critic who communicates his enthusiasm for the works with a gusto that is not diminished by the text's formidable erudition. Whether questioning Monet's honesty in portraying his own garden filled with dahlias (when they may, in fact, have been growing on the other side of the fence, the product of his neighbor's green thumb) or closely analyzing André Derain's Plate of Peaches in connection to Cézanne and Matisse and to other works by Derain, Shone gives us newfound insight into these canonical artists. At the same time, he enlarges our appreciation of the collector's eye—it is no accident that these particular works all ended up at the same address, and Mrs. Levin's interests and taste are an unmistakable thread running through the book.
The provenance and exhibition history of each work, as well as a list of additional references keyed to the extensive bibliography, are provided. This publication accompanies an exhibition to be held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from November 19, 2002, to February 9, 2003. The exhibition and catalogue are made possible by The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation.