France's Musee d'Orsay will on Friday open a major exhibition of paintings from the 19th century at the new modern art museum in China's commercial hub of Shanghai, museum officials said Wednesday. Many of the 87 paintings
by artists in the French Naturalism movement, including works by Gustave Courbet and Jean-Francois Millet, are being shown in China for the first time, exhibition organisers told a news conference.
"It's a very large exhibition. We have sent large format paintings and we have sent very famous paintings by Courbet and Millet," Guy Cogeval, president of the Musee d'Orsay stated.
"A lot of them are shown in China for the first time," he said.
Chinese media has put the value of the paintings in the exhibition at 185 million euros ($236 million), though officials declined to confirm that figure.
Shanghai's China Art Museum said the show, which was assembled in 11 months, will be the largest international exhibition hosted by the museum since it opened in October.
The China Art Museum is expecting 3,000 visitors a day for the exhibition, which runs more than three months to February next year, officials said.
"There is a link between this exhibition and China today," said Xavier Rey, a curator for the painting department of the Musee d'Orsay.
Naturalist painting in the second half of the 19th century featured realistic depictions of everyday life, but it was also a reaction to tremendous social and industrial change, he said.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is Millet's "The Gleaners", which depicts three women searching for wheat after the harvest.
The China Art Museum is heavily weighted towards Chinese art, but one floor is devoted to foreign works on loan from foreign museums.
The exhibition "Millet, Courbet and French Naturalism" will return to France next year in time for an October showing at the Musee d'Orsay, said Olivier Simmat, the museum's head of international affairs.