Colors at an Exhibition

The bright hues of the season are on the walls as well as on the trees, thanks to four vibrant new art shows

This spring, Manhattan is abloom—both in the parks and in the galleries. Four current art exhibits, each focused on a different theme, feature diverse works united by their dazzling use of color.

Pierre Bonnard: The Late Interiors lights up the Lehman Pavilion of the Metropolitan Museum. Painted between 1926 and the artist’s death 1947, each frame is a world of color unto itself: the interior of a country home, a basket of fruit, a window opening to a garden. This magisterial procession of late works shows Bonnard to be one of the great modern colorists, at the level of Albers and Rothko.

Brucke: The Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin, 1903 –1913 at the Neue Galerie is presented by theme: cityscape, landscape, the human figure. The text emphasizes the ideology of the new, the revolutionary spirit of the young, and the communal life of four Brucke artists: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Hermann Max Pechstein. Bold lines, angular forms, and neo-primitive postures characterize the work. But color is the unremarked highlight of the Brucke artists—bold, bright, bountiful blocks engage and hold the eye.

A more subtle sensibility pervades Picasso: Mosqueteros shown downtown at the Gagosian Gallery 9. This is a splendid collection of rarely seen paintings from the late period, 1963 –1973, drawn almost entirely from private collections and curated by the great Picasso scholar John Richardson. The narrative centers on Picasso’s late-life obsessions with the flamboyant musketeers of his native Spain and his wife and muse, Jacqueline Roque. The exhibit might as easily be titled Picasso: Form and Color. Here, in his late work, we see Picasso revealed as a master of color, employing a full palette from red to violet, gentle wash to heavy saturation.

Women is the title of a collection from the Steven and Alexandra Cohen collection on display at Sotheby’s. And indeed, women from Madonna to Marilyn are portrayed in every image and sculpture. Each work is a masterpiece, each a powerful signature of the artist. On the canvases, color is the leitmotif, from Yves Klein’s intense blue imprint of a naked woman to Warhol’s bright turquoise Marilyn. The gray-and-white Gerhard Richter painting and the black-and-white Cindy Sherman photograph highlight the subtle intensity of de Kooning’s and Dumas’ palette.

Each of these exhibits is well worth a visit before the blooms fall from the trees. Women ends April 14 and Bonnard on April 19, while Picasso and Brucke close in June.