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"Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1869-1890"
2001-03-02 until 2001-05-20
Van Gogh Museum
The exhibition brings together some
70 works by the leading
Impressionist masters, tracing the
development of rapid painting, and
examining the risks involved, over
the course of three decades. In the
1860s Edouard Manet began to paint
- and, audaciously, to sign and
exhibit as finished works - canvases
in which he exploited the speed and
immediacy characteristic of oil
sketches. His example was taken up by a generation of innovative and
admiring younger artists, including Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot,
Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley, all of whom, at one or more
points in their careers, turned their hand to rapid, improvisatory painting.
Art history generally ... has neglected the hand. ... The aim of this
exhibition is to reopen the question of manual dexterity and to reconsider
the physical intelligence of artists by directly confronting paintings that
are, in themselves, direct. Thus writes Richard R. Brettell, guest curator, in
his preface to the catalogue that accompanies Impression: Painting
Quickly in France, 1860-1890.
For Brettell, some of the most daring Impressionist paintings are virtuoso
performances, improvisations on canvas where the artists display their
skill in evoking form and light with quick, deft touches of colour.
Not all their works were in fact executed quickly; some may have involved
several sessions. However, they were meant to look as if they had been
dashed off in the white heat of inspiration.
The exhibition includes one of Renoirs finest landscapes, a view of a
humble hillside at Wargemont where the artist visited friends in the
summer of 1879. The composition is composed of veils of thin colour
lightly and quickly washed across the canvas in long, looping strokes.
Although the means are simple, nonetheless Renoir brilliantly evokes
both the undulating form of the hillside and the warm, moist atmosphere
of a summer afternoon. It gives the powerful impression that Renoir
observed nature and as he did so transcribed it to canvas almost without
conscious thought or analysis, but with that intelligence of the hand
Detail from Claude-Oscar Monet,
Regatta at Argenteuil,
Paris, Musée d'Orsay.