defBLOG_2109-cliche-FONDATION-BEMBERG-et-RMN-002-scaled-e16200496658
07 Dec 2021

Masterpieces of the Bemberg Foundation on loan at the Fondation de l’Hermitage in Lausanne and other cities

A temporary exhibition at Fondation de l’Hermitage in Lausanne showcased an exceptional selection of paintings of the Bemberg Foundation.

For the first time since the inception of the Bemberg Foundation in 1995, a selection of pieces is on display outside the foundation in Toulouse. The collection comprises an astounding 1100 pieces assembled by the late Georges Bemberg.

From the 1st of March until the 31st of May, the Fondation de l’Hermitage in Lausanne, Switzerland, displayed 132 masterpieces spanning from the Renaissance to Impressionism to Modern Art.

Quilvest (Switzerland) Ltd. is proud to introduce its readers to Georges Bemberg (1915 – 2011), a descendant of the Bemberg family, who dedicated his life to the arts: composing, writing and above all collecting.

We are honored to share an interview with Philipe Cros, Director of the Bemberg Foundation in Toulouse, directed by Carola Wiese, Family Office Art Services, Quilvest (Switzerland) Ltd., to mark this special occasion:

Picture above: Pierre Bonnard, Le Cannet, Around 1930, Oil on canvas, 54 x 64.8cm

Interview

Mr. Cros, can you please give us some background about the founder of the foundation Mr. Georges Bemberg?

Georges Bemberg was born in Argentina in 1915 into an industrial family with German roots. He grew up in France, where he became a  piano player, composer and writer. He spent his time between Paris, where he lived most of the year, and New York where he liked to stay during the winter and enjoy its energy. He also spent significant time in Buenos Aires where he felt a profound attachment to the city.

His family were seasoned patrons. One of their projects was the Argentinian house in Paris, a student home that still exists today.

One of Georges Bemberg’s uncles, who studied painting under Picasso’s guidance introduced him to the world of art. He started his famed collection early and continued to collect throughout his entire life.
He spent his time travelling between the continents. Having no direct descendant, he dedicated his life to his passion for art.

What marked the beginning of the collection?  

Georges Bemberg started collecting at a fairly young age as a student in New York. He bought his first piece, a gouache from Pissarro, stating it would mark the “cornerstone for a future private museum”.

How did Georges Bemberg define his very own acquisition parameters?

His decision to acquire a piece was always driven by his personal taste. Even though Mr. Bemberg was in touch with art historians and critics he ultimately listened to his inner voice regarding whether a piece moved him or not. It could be the colors of the work – especially with the modern pieces – or the emotion that would arise from looking at it. Despite these criteria, he often chose smaller pieces as this scale would be more suitable for private display in his home. Only later in his life, while already planning the opening of the foundation, did he gradually shift to bigger pieces that he knew could only be displayed in public space.

Courtyard of the Bemberg Foundation in Toulouse, Hôtel d’Assézat
Courtyard of the Bemberg Foundation in Toulouse, Hôtel d’Assézat

What makes the collection so special?

The collection reflects the education and passion for art spanning centuries. At first it was driven by a traditional upbringing, so the earlier pieces in the collection reflect the taste of that time. Gradually the collection shifted, liberating itself from traditional collecting schemes and becoming more open to the art of his time. While doing so, Georges Bemberg didn’t seek friendship with the living artists whose works he collected, but rather had in mind to assemble a museum-quality collection for future public viewing. His fascination for a particular artist, Bonnard, grew to such an extent that in the end he assembled the largest collection of works by Bonnard held in private hands.

From the very beginning of his collecting activities, Georges Bemberg envisioned a museum or similar space where his works could be shared with the wider public. He loved to discreetly listen to visitors of the foundation regarding the comments they made about the works from his collection.  

Even though Mr. Bemberg was in touch with art historians and critics he ultimately listened to his inner voice regarding whether a piece moved him or not.

- Philipe Cros
Pierre Bonnard, Interior, Around 1910, Oil on canvas, 62,9 x 48,3cm
Pierre Bonnard, Interior, Around 1910, Oil on canvas, 62,9 x 48,3cm

What are the corner pillars of the collection?

The overall collection comprises a stunning total of 1100 pieces. The works can be basically divided into three periods: First is the Renaissance from 1500 to 1620, second is artists from the 18th century and third the more modern pieces from 1860 – 1950. The collection consists of two major art forms: paintings and bronze sculptures. The sculptures are from the Northern and Italian Renaissance and form one of the highlights of the collection, alongside with the largest collection of Bonnards in private hands.

Can you give us a brief overview of the history of the foundation?

Plans to open the collection to the public have been the cornerstone of the collection since its inception. Starting in the late 1980’s Mr. Bemberg began looking for a proper home for his collection so it could be shown to the public. It was finally decided to put the collection on display at the Hôtel d’Assézat in Toulouse, allowing the doors of the Bemberg Foundation to finally be opened to the public in 1995. The collection has been shown there ever since.

Why do we have the privilege to welcome parts of the collection in Lausanne now?  

After almost 25 years of exhibition activity with only minor enhancements to the museum, it was decided that from the end of 2020 until early 2022 the whole space in Toulouse would undergo fundamental refurbishment. The idea to take a selection of Masterpieces from the collection and show them in Lausanne and other cities was born from that.

Can you provide us with more information about the curatorial concept of the exhibition?

There were 132 pieces on display in Lausanne as well as all the Bonnards. There are no bronze statues,  but a significant part of the most important paintings from all periods of the collection.

Georges Bemberg, at the age of 78 in one of his private homes. Behind him a work by: Paul Gauguin, Head of a young farmer, Around 1888, Oil on canvas, 22x22cm
Georges Bemberg, at the age of 78 in one of his private homes. Behind him a work by: Paul Gauguin, Head of a young farmer, Around 1888, Oil on canvas, 22x22cm

Which event marked the decision to show some pieces outside of Toulouse?

The premises in Toulouse are currently under renovation so it seemed like the perfect time to display these important works in other venues.

Are there plans to show parts of the collection outside of Europe as well?

Some pieces will travel on to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the San Diego Museum of Art in the US. In Houston the Impressionist and Modern art will be shown, whereas in San Diego the emphasis will be on the Old Masters paintings.

Did Mr Bemberg have a piece of art he was particularly fond of? 

Indeed. It’s a small painting by Raoul Dufy showing a typical French summer beach scene. With its vibrant colors, it evoked Mr. Bemberg’s childhood memories of how he spent his summer holidays in France.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Cros! We look forward to regularly posting more about the Bemberg Foundation and its activities. 

Interview directed by Carola Wiese, Family Office Art Services, Quilvest (Switzerland) Ltd.

Monet to Matisse: Impressionism to Modernism from the Bemberg Foundation

Next exhibition in Houston.  Impressionism to Modernism celebrates the art collection assembled by Georges Bemberg and now housed in southern France at the Renaissance Hôtel d’Assézat in Toulouse.

Cranach to Canaletto: Masterpieces from the Bemberg Foundation

Next exhibition in San Diego.
Built by Argentina-born French collector and Harvard-trained scholar, Georges Bemberg, the collections ranges from Venetian portraits and view paintings to masterworks of the German and French Renaissance.

Credits: Photo #01-#04 – Pictures with kind permission of the Bemberg Foundation in Toulouse