CLE to GVA: Follow Gustave Courbet's "Panoramic View of the Alps, Les Dents du Midi"

Masterpieces from the Cleveland Museum of Art are constantly traveling all over the world. Works from our collection are highly sought after for exhibitions in the United States and abroad. After conservators and curators evaluate whether a work is in good enough condition travel and determine the significance of the exhibition is a match, a work of art is carefully packed and accompanied by a courier on every step of its journey. Here is a sneak peek of some of one of these stories, which we will be featured in upcoming posts.

Recently Gustave Courbet’s Panoramic View of the Alps, Les Dents du Midi, 1877  (pictured above on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art) travelled to the Musée Rath in Geneva, Switzerland for an important exhibition of works from the artist’s Swiss period. It took five days from the time the work left the museum in Cleveland and was installed in Geneva. 


Courier trips often involve long truck trips in addition to air travel. 

Really large pictures, like the Courbet, are too big to fit on passenger planes, so they have to fly on cargo planes. Here pallets of cargo are being lifted into the back of a cargo plane. 


A courier travels with the artwork to make sure that everything goes smoothly. When the work of art flies cargo, so does the courier. In this case that means being the only passenger on a flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

Nearly 24 hours after leaving Cleveland, the painting approaches the Alps on its way to Geneva. 


At the Musée Rath, art handlers carefully unload and unpack the painting before conservators confirm that it remains in stable condition. 


The painting’s subject of the Alps near lake Geneva meant that for this work of art the trip was a kind of homecoming. It was placed next to a recently discovered preparatory sketch for our painting, and was probably the first time they had been together since they had been in the artist’s studio. 


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