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French impressionists, Austrian masters in grand artistic exchange

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VIENNA, Sept 30 (AFP) - French Impressionists Manet, Monet, Cezanne and Renoir will trade places with Austrian masters Klimt and Schiele in what is billed as the biggest cultural exchange between Paris and Vienna.

The "Impressionists," with some 50 paintings lent by the Musee d'Orsay, will go on view at the Leopold Museum in Vienna starting Friday.

In Paris, at the Grand Palais, "Vienna 1900" will kick off on Monday featuring some 50 paintings and 100 drawings of turn-of-the-20th-century Austrian masters Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele -- whose erotic paintings are already known to the French public -- as well as Oskar Kokoschka and Koloman Moser.

"The Impressionists represent the triumph of light and color," Rudolf Leopold, the renowned collector who gave his name to one of the most popular Viennese museums, told AFP.

"(The Impressionists) give you happiness and joy while with the Viennese painters death and psychology are palpable," Leopold's wife and collaborator, Elisabeth, said on Thursday in front of the winter landscape of Claude Monet's "The Magpie."

The migration of the invaluable works of art represents the biggest artistic exchange between France and Austria, according Georges Touzenis, cultural attache of the French embassy in Vienna.

The art works have been insured for astronomical sums: more than 660 million euros (793 million dollars) for the French impressionist paintings and almost the same amount for the Viennese masterworks, said Peter Weinhaupl, director of the Leopold museum.

Rudolf Leopold said he had gone in person to the d'Orsay to make the selection of the paintings to be brought over to Vienna.

While he did not get August Renoir's "Le Moulin de la galette," -- which is currently on view at the new cinemateque of Paris -- many of the most famous impressionist works can now be viewed in Vienna.

The exhibition runs the impressionist gamut from Gustave Courbet and "The Angelus" by Jean-Francois Millet to Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh, taking in Edouard Manet and Gustave Caillebotte in between.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Austrian works, originally scheduled to be on view until December, will be shown for an extended period until January 23 at the request of Viennese officials.

They said the exhibition would be one way to mark Austria's cultural contribution to Europe just as the country will hold the rotating presidency of the European Union in the first semester of 2006.

(Leopold Museum - "Impressionisten aus dem Pariser Musee d'Orsay" - 30.09. 2005 - 30.01.2006)



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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