Ten must-see works at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Good for: Contemporary-art lovers

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  • Photograph: Courtesy Guggenheim

    Edgar Degas; Spanish Dance; 1896–1911

  • Photograph: Courtesy Guggenheim

    Édouard Manet, Before the Mirror, 1876

  • Photograph: Courtesy Guggenheim

    Paul Cézanne, Bibémus, ca. 1894–95

Photograph: Courtesy Guggenheim

Edgar Degas; Spanish Dance; 1896–1911


Edgar Degas, Spanish Dance
Degas loved dancers, and they became one of his favorite motifs. This tiny sculpture of a graceful nude figure midmove, which appears alongside two other Degas sculptures, was actually cast from the artist's model posthumously under the supervision of one of his friends, Albert Bartholom. Unlike most 19th-century sculptures, which, according to associate curator Karole Vail, were academic and monumental, Spanish Dance represents something more expressive, vivid and lively.
Where to find it: Thannhauser Gallery, level two

douard Manet, Before the Mirror
Fascinated by societal shifts in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Manet often painted the working class and the underclass—especially prostitutes. Using large, loose brushstrokes (his signature style), he portrays a courtesan from the back while she looks at herself in the mirror, perhaps just a moment before she turns around and catches you peeking at her. "You have the impression of openness and great freedom of paint," says Vail. "At the same time the psychological mood is more restrained. The picture is actually very private."
Where to find it: Thannhauser Gallery, level two

Pablo Picasso, Woman Ironing
During Picasso's Blue Period, he famously depicted peasants, laborers, beggars and other downtrodden folks in shades of blue. Though this long-limbed, hunched woman is shown in grays and blacks, she represents that same period of gloom. "This is not so much a portrait of a particular woman," says Vail. "It's a kind of metaphor for the poor in general, the forever oppressed." Perfect viewing for jaded New Yorkers, this.
Where to find it:
Thannhauser Gallery, level two

Henri Rousseau, The Football Players
Here, four disproportionately tall men wearing what appear to be pajamas play a jolly game of rugby in an autumn field. But curators have a hard time describing what it is about this piece—and Rousseau's paintings in general—that makes them so happy. "They're quite quirky, they're very humorous, and you can't quite pin them down," says Vail. The self-taught "Sunday painter," who worked as a clerk, didn't make art seriously until he was in his forties. "There's something quite naive about his work," says Vail. "But that is precisely what so many admired about it."
Where to find it: Thannhauser Gallery, level two

Paul Czanne, Bibmus
Czanne frequently painted the Roman Bibmus sandstone quarry in Southern France. His nature paintings of the burnt-orange rocks, covered by green brush, helped turn the remote mine into a tourist destination. "I guess he had a kind of obsession with landscapes," says Vail. "He painted some of his most famous landscapes over and over again." This piece demonstrates Czanne's use of light and color, as well as his deftness at creating volume.
Where to find it: Thannhauser Gallery, level two

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