Quality, ambition and strategy: collecting French art for the Musée de Lyon (1900 - 1914)
Walsh, Sarah Ann
This dissertation covers the history of municipal collecting in Lyon during the years 1900 – 1914. Chapter One deals with the tenure of Édouard Aynard (1837 – 1913), the prominent Lyonnais statesman and Président of the Conseil d’Administration des Musées (1878 – 1897), who sought to elevate the status of the museum in France and Europe by improving the quality of the collection with acquisitions made by purchase. Although he was unable to achieve results that reflected the scope of his ambition, Aynard nevertheless developed strategic policies that appear to have had an immediate and lasting influence on collecting in Lyon. In Chapter Two, the reasons why the Commission Consultative des Musées was established in 1897 are examined. This restructure of the management and organisation of the group was significant because it led to greater diversification of its membership and resulted in a firm emphasis being placed on consensus decision-making. The five key individuals responsible for shaping attitudes after 1900 are also introduced in this chapter: Victor Augagneur (1855 – 1931), Édouard Herriot (1872 – 1957), Raymond Tripier (1838 – 1916), Émile Bertaux (1869 – 1917) and Richard Cantinelli (1870 – 1932). The respective backgrounds of these men are outlined, particularly in the context of their outlooks on the Dreyfus Affair and the Separation of Church and State. In Chapter Three, the issue of regional pride is considered through an examination of the acquisition of works by artists from Lyon and the wider region. Chapter Four consists of a series of six case studies which show that a main priority for the Commission was to actively seek out paintings by major French nineteenth-century artists. This area of collecting activity was important and it is examined in detail in order to determine how, and why, the museum became the first in France to purchase works by Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) and Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903), in 1902 and 1913 respectively. Chapter Five treats the long collaboration between the Commission and Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) which spanned the period 1903 – 1912. It analyses the circumstances that gave rise to Tripier, Herriot and Cantinelli consciously seeking to develop and maintain a strong working relationship with the artist. The success of the approach taken was such that it resulted in Lyon accumulating the most comprehensive collection of works by the sculptor held by any museum in France outside Paris.