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Works by Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh on view at Scottish National Gallery
Charles François Daubigny (1817-1878), Fields in the month of June, 1874. Oil on canvas, 135 x 224 cm. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Louis V. Keeler, Class of 1911. Ithaca, NY, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University.

EDINBURGH.- Scottish National Gallery is the UK’s exclusive host of the first major international exhibition of the work of pioneering French landscape painter Charles-François Daubigny and his influence on the Impressionists.

This summer the National Galleries of Scotland stages the first ever large-scale exhibition to examine the important relationship between the hugely successful landscape painter Charles-François Daubigny (1817-78) and the Impressionists, including two of the most celebrated and popular of all European artists, Claude Monet (1840–1926) and Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90).

Inspiring Impressionism: Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh is one of the highlights of the Galleries’ summer exhibition programme.

The exhibition brings together 95 works from across the world in an unprecedented collaboration between the Scottish National Gallery, the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, USA and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. The Scottish National Gallery exclusively hosts the UK’s only showing of this exceptional display.

Inspiring Impressionism features major paintings by all three artists, on loan from many of the greatest art collections in the world, including the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and many other American museums; from London the British Museum, the National Gallery and Tate; and the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Re-evaluating the origins of the Impressionist movement, the exhibition not only demonstrates the profound influence Daubigny had upon the Impressionists, but also examines their reciprocal impact on his later style, with the full range of his output represented, from his finished ‘official’ paintings to his smaller oil sketches painted directly from nature.

A series of fascinating and often surprising juxtapositions have been put together for the very first time, offering visitors the unprecedented chance to compare the show’s three featured artists’ varied treatments of a selection of motifs which held a common attraction for them – orchards, sunsets, poppy fields and river scenes.

Other significant comparisons have been made with important works by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899).

Daubigny was a prolific and successful artist who played a leading role in making landscape a major subject for painting in France in the nineteenth century. He also anticipated and influenced many of the practices associated with Impressionism through unusual and innovative compositions, his radically ‘unfinished’ style and the practice of regularly painting out-of-doors. In 1865, almost a decade before the 1874 group exhibition that first elicited the label ‘Impressionism’, Daubigny was referred to as the “leader” of the “school of the impression”.

He pioneered many techniques considered unusual at the time, such as painting from the middle rather than the banks of a river. In order to achieve this he had a studio boat specially constructed in 1857 and would make annual voyages in it down the great rivers of France such as the Oise, the Marne and the Seine. From the early 1870s onward Monet would follow suit and in turn depicted the Seine in many unforgettable canvases painted from his own studio boat in emulation of Daubigny. Daubigny made great use of ‘double-square’ canvases (double the width of their height) and Van Gogh would replicate this practice in his last series of paintings at Auvers-sur-Oise.

Daubigny’s influence on the young Monet is readily evident in the latter’s large and early painting, shown at the official Paris Salon in 1865, Pointe de la Hève at Low Tide, a major loan to our exhibition from the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. This shows the younger artist responding to Daubigny’s Cliffs near Villerville, another of our star exhibits, which also depicts the Normandy coast and had been shown at the Salon the previous year (1864). Both paintings are dramatic landscapes with brooding storm clouds and a sea turned to a milky jade by breaking sunlight. In both pictures formal composition is combined with fresh observation of nature. They demonstrate a similarity of intention between the two artists at this stage and this artistic dialogue would continue in the following decades.

Daubigny was influential in other ways, for he was an important supporter of the young Impressionists and in 1871 he introduced Monet and Pissarro to Paul Durand-Ruel, who went on to become the leading dealer in Impressionism and a key source of financial support.

Van Gogh, who was half a generation younger than most of the Impressionists, revered Daubigny, considering him one of “the great forerunners” of modern landscape whose paintings were sincere expressions of nature, imbued with emotion. In the last two months of his life (he shot himself in 1890), Van Gogh moved to Auvers-sur-Oise, where Daubigny, who died in 1878, had settled.

Van Gogh was granted permission by Daubigny’s widow to paint the Daubigny family home and garden and many of the works he painted there can be considered as a direct homage to his distinguished predecessor, for example his Poppy Field, Auvers-sur-Oise (1890). The brooding and dramatic depictions of cornfields, a reflection of the profound sadness and anxiety Van Gogh was experiencing at this time, drew their ultimate inspiration from the rural scenes that Daubigny had painted many years earlier, testament yet again to his enduring influence.

Michael Clarke, Director of the Scottish National Gallery, said: “This is a ground-breaking exhibition. If you want to understand how Impressionism came about you have to look at Daubigny. In his own time he was recognised, together with his close friend Camille Corot, as one of the great landscape painters. This show rescues him from long and unjustified neglect and reveals for the first time the inspiration and support he provided to the young Impressionists and to the ultimately tragic figure of Vincent van Gogh.”

George Reid, EY’s Head of Financial Services, Scotland: “At EY we are delighted to support the National Galleries of Scotland host this unique collection of masterpieces in Edinburgh from such influential artists. Daubigny, Monet and Van Gogh were legacy builders and we are proud to sponsor this celebration and appreciation of their work. Inspiring Impressionism is a fantastic example of international collaboration and draws parallels with our commitment to building a better working world. We understand the important role that a thriving artistic and cultural environment plays in creating a healthy community and a strong economy. This exhibition is set to delight gallery visitors from around the world.”

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