(March 10, 2014)

"The Calm Before the Storm" opens March 15 at Centenary's Meadows Museum

SHREVEPORT, LA — The Meadows Museum of Art at Centenary College will host "The Calm Before the Storm: Jean Despujols' Portrait of Indochina" through April 20. This exhibition, based on the 1951 National Geographic article "Portrait of Indochina," illustrates the discordance of Despujols' tranquil images of Indochina with the article's discussion of Ho Chi Minh's growing guerrilla war against the French. The 24 artworks by Despujols featured in the National Geographic article are the same works displayed in the exhibit.

Despujols in his studio

This free exhibition will open to the public with a reception hosted by the Friends of the Meadows Museum on Saturday, March 15, from 5:30-7:30 pm.

In 1936, Despujols was selected by the French government to travel through the French Indochinese states of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos to record the peoples and their ways of life before western influences altered them forever. In part, the French government hoped this would strengthen support for their colonial rule in Southeast Asia. Twenty months later, Despujols left Indochina with over 360 artworks. This complete collection was given to Centenary College by alumnus Algur H. Meadows in 1969. In 1975, the Meadows Museum of Art was established for the purpose of housing this Indochina Collection.

Dr. Matt Murphy, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Centenary and historical curator for the exhibition, observes, "There is a stark contrast between the earlier paintings' idyllic subjects and the escalating war in 1951. In looking back at Indochina now, we recognize another contrast — between the early conflicts described in the article and the much greater destruction wrought over the next four decades."

The exhibition will also highlight Despujols' musical talents through guest musical curator Tom Hundemer. Hundemer, Lecturer in Music and Director of the Hurley Music Library, arranged and orchestrated the music within the exhibit, entitled Despujols' Portraits, for the Shreveport Symphony in 1986 and 1996. This music is based on piano compositions by Despujols himself.

"Since Despujols was a painter, not known as a musician, none of us was expecting the music to be as interesting as it turned out to be," said Hundemer. "(The music) certainly shows another fascinating aspect of Jean Despujols' art and personality. He was an artist of many talents, leaving a lasting impression on many people when he settled in Shreveport."

The Meadows Museum of Art is located on the campus of Centenary College of Louisiana at 2911 Centenary Boulevard in Shreveport, LA. The Museum offers free admission and is open from 12-4 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; from 12-5 p.m. on Thursday; and from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. For more information or to schedule field trips, contact the Museum at 318.869.5040.