In an international exclusive, the National Gallery of Victoria
is presenting a major exhibition of more than 100 masterworks of French Impressionism in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), an institution renowned world-wide for its rich holdings of Impressionist paintings. French Impressionism features works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt and more including 79 that have never-beforebeen exhibited in Australia. These important loans from the MFAs iconic collection provide the rare opportunity to see a significant grouping of Impressionist masterworks in Australia.
French Impressionism charts the trajectory of the late-nineteenth century artistic movement, highlighting the key milestones and figures at the centre of this period of experimentation and revolution in modern art. Through an arresting display of paintings and works on paper that showcases the breadth of the movement, the exhibition evokes the artistic energy and intellectual dynamism of the period by placing emphasis on the thoughts and observations of the artists themselves, revealing the social connections, artistic influences and personal relationships that united the group of radical practitioners at the centre of this new art movement.
Presented thematically across ten sections, the exhibition opens with early works by Monet and his forebears, Eugène Boudin and painters of the Barbizon School, illustrating their profound influence on Monets use of the then radical method of painting outdoors en plein air (in the open air) to capture changing conditions in nature.
The growth of the movement in subsequent decades is mapped through an exploration of the favoured subjects and ideas of the Impressionists. Moving through an immersive exhibition design, audiences experience the hallmarks of Impressionism, including distinctive brushwork, unique points of view, arresting use of colour, as well as places dear to the artists, such as Paris, Fontainebleau Forest, Pontoise, Giverny, the Normandy coast and the South of France. Many artists also placed equal weight on recording movement and change in urban and domestic realms. Still life paintings, intimate interiors and street scenes by such artists as Manet, Renoir and Gustave Caillebotte are also featured.
These broader themes are punctuated by focused sections of the exhibition that examine significant moments and characteristics in the practices of a selection of artists, including Renoir and his experimentation with pictorial effects in the 1880s, as well as Pissarro and his role as mentor to a number of other artists.
An exhibition highlight is a breathtaking display of sixteen canvases by Claude Monet, arranged in an immersive display reminiscent of the distinctive, oval gallery Monet helped design for his famous Water Lilies at the Musée de lOrangerie, Paris, between 1922 and his death in 1926. Painted over a thirty-year period, these paintings depict many of Monets most beloved scenes of nature in Argenteuil, the Normandy coast, the Mediterranean coast and his extraordinary garden in Giverny. Together, these paintings demonstrate the full scope of the artists immeasurable contribution to the Impressionist movement.
MFA Bostons significant collection of French Impressionism benefitted from the collecting efforts of individual Bostonians, some of whom visited the artists in France during the movements height. Mary Cassatt, an Americanborn artist integral to the French Impressionist movement and whose work is featured in the exhibition, advocated among her fellow Americans for their patronage of her French colleagues, ensuring that many great Impressionist paintings found their way into important American collections.
Danny Pearson MP, Minister for Creative Industries, said: This exhibition is set to be another blockbuster for the NGV and a drawcard for Melbourne and Victoria. Not only do exhibitions like French Impressionism provide Victorians with the opportunity to see some of the worlds biggest names in art in their own backyard, they attract visitors who inject millions into the economy - supporting Victorias recovery and strengthening our reputation as the creative state.
Tony Ellwood AM, Director, National Gallery of Victoria said: Paintings by the Impressionists are beloved world-wide for the artistic innovation and visual curiosity they represent, as well as for their breath-taking use of colour. This exhibition will give audiences the extraordinary opportunity to study more than 100 masterworks up close, including Monets radiant scenes of the French countryside, and to discover the truly revolutionary origins of this important moment in modern art history.