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Musée d'Orsay Fetes Vincent van Gogh Exhibition

Farida Khelfa, Maryvonne Pinault and Bernadette Chirac attended the benefit dinner in Paris.

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The dinner scene at the Musée dOrsay
Countess Jacqueline de Ribes

Countess Jacqueline de Ribes

Photo By Dominique Maître

Farida Khelfa

Farida Khelfa

Photo By Dominique Maître

Despite the downbeat back story for the exhibition “Vincent van Gogh — Antonin Artaud” at the Musée d’Orsay — springing from Artaud’s 1947 book “Van Gogh, the Man Suicided by Society” — a light atmosphere prevailed Monday night at the landmark Paris museum.

For Artaud articulated the magic of van Gogh’s paintings, lauding his “single-minded concern for every stroke silently and poignantly applied. The common color of things, but oh so right, so lovingly right, that no precious stones can equal in its rarity.”

“It’s an amazing exhibition,” art dealer Almine Rech marveled as she toured the show during the annual gala of the Société des Amis du Musée d’Orsay.

Maryll Lanvin paused by an 1890 work depicting a field of poppies in Auvers-sur-Oise, and wondered aloud if the artist dabbed each red flower with paint right out of the tube.

In a rare speech, the Countess Jacqueline de Ribes paid tribute to her husband Édouard, who died a year ago after spending more than three decades raising funds for the institution. “The museum for him was a place of happiness,” she said in her musical voice, urging the beau monde assembled for the lavish charity dinner to help enrich the collection through donations. “I hope the message is clear,” she teased.

De Ribes rattled off some key acquisitions made under the auspices of her late husband, notably “In the Greenhouse” by Albert Bartholomé, offered to the museum in 1990. It was the centerpiece of the “Impressionism and Fashion” exhibition last year, and the dress shown — in white cotton with polka dots and violet stripes — made quite a statement.

The van Gogh expo — comprising some 40 paintings, a selection of van Gogh’s drawings and letters, together with graphic works by Artaud — runs through July 6.