Paris

“L’Oeuvre Ultime”

Fondation Maeght

At first blush the premise of “L’Oeuvre Ultime” (The final work)––to present works by 24 artists, all renowned Modernist masters, made in the last years of their lives—teeters on the brink of a patronizing sentimentality. (It might be subtitled a “celebration of the human spirit,” or some such.) But it raised pointed questions about notions of style and creativity, problematic subjects that the recent churn of the art market, with its emphasis on novelty, has tended to obscure.

Given the theme of the show—curated by Jean-Louis Prat, director of the Fondation Maeght, and featuring 124 paintings by artists ranging from Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and Edgar Degas, to Georges Braque, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Asger Jorn—it was impossible not to read through the paintings to the lives of the artists who made them. This sort of transference is familiar in popularized versions of artists’

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