The Langmatt Museum’s prestigious collection of Impressionist masterpieces is literally being seen in a new light after being loaned to the museum in northern Switzerland for the first time.

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Some 50 paintings, including works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, are being exhibited in a lighter setting at the Hermitage Foundation in Lausanne while the Langmatt Museum is being renovated.

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“I have never seen the paintings in this light,” said Markus Stegmann, director of Langmatt.

The collection has never been seen outside the cocoon of the Langmatt villa in Baden, near Zurich, where the artworks are displayed under the light of crystal chandeliers and lattice windows.

At the Hermitage, overlooking the western Swiss city of Lausanne, the large bay windows of the 19th-century villa allow the same play of light to play freely that inspired the Impressionists.

The collection includes Renoir’s “The Braid”, Monet’s “Ice Floes at Twilight” and Gauguin’s “Still Life with a Bowl of Fruit and Lemons”.

The exhibition, which runs until November 3, is not only a tribute to the 150 years since the beginning of the Impressionist art movement, but also to Sidney and Jenny Brown, the couple who assembled the collection between 1908 and 1919.

The Browns were a wealthy family from the industrial bourgeoisie of northern Switzerland and had exceptional taste.

All the works were “bought with the heart” and not on the advice of art experts, Stegmann said.

Take, for example, Eugene Boudin’s painting “Washerwomen on the Banks of the Touques”, which shows the women leaning over the water with a smoking factory in the background.

The painting, which the Browns bought in 1896 during their honeymoon in Paris, “is not an easy work, it is not a work to love,” said Sylvie Wuhrmann, director of the Hermitage Foundation.

The Browns also collected work from the Munich Secession visual artists’ association, before becoming exclusively passionate about contemporary French artists.

Renoir became a great favorite, along with Cezanne and Camille Pissarro.

The couple’s dedication to Impressionism was not without danger in high society, where such artists raised eyebrows.

Besides ‘The Boat’ and the portraits of his children, Renoir’s ‘The Braid’ is one of the most recognizable works in the collection.

It is inspired by the classicist works of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and has even been nicknamed Langmatt Mona Lisa.

It also fits in well with the Hermitage’s own collection: the Lausanne museum owns an exceptional set of 17 paintings and drawings by Suzanne Valadon, the model depicted in “The Braid”.

In 1919, the Browns changed their tastes for reasons that are hard to pin down. Impressionism disappeared and the 18th-century French painters came.

They sold eight works of art, including paintings by Renoir and Cezanne, to buy Jean-Honore Fragonard’s “Young Girl with Cat”, which is also on display in Lausanne.

The couple commissioned Austrian artist Max Oppenheimer to paint their portrait in a style combining Expressionism and Cubism.

In 1941 Sidney Brown died and Jenny Brown stopped buying art. She lived as a recluse in the Langmatt villa until her own death in 1968 at the age of 96.

When Stegmann asked for a temporary home for Langmatt’s paintings during the renovation of the villa, the Hermitage enthusiastically said yes, as it was celebrating its 40th anniversary.

According to Stegmann, the collaboration also made it possible to publish a comprehensive expert catalogue of the Langmatt collection, something the Baden museum alone did not have the resources to do.

In November, the museum faced serious financial problems and sold three Cézannes at auction in New York.

“Fruits et pot de gingembre” grossed $38.9 million, “Quatre pommes et un couteau” grossed $10.4 million and “La mer a l’Estaque” grossed $3.2 million.

Stegmann called the sale at the time a painful last resort to secure the museum’s long-term future.

After Lausanne, the collection will be on show in Cologne, Germany, from March to July 2025, and then in Vienna from September next year to February 2026, before returning home to Baden.

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