“From Monet to Matisse” at the Columbia Museum of Art

I learned something about myself from visiting this exhibition.

I prefer artists who mixed Impressionist and Academic style in their work.  Two examples of this sublime fusion came from Paul Camille Guigou and Gaston La Touche.  Guigou’s Environs at Martigues left me entranced, for it felt very three-dimensional and practically pulsated with life.  On La Touche, I found his painting The Joyous Festival immense, gorgeous and a triumph.  With the paper lanterns, the fireworks, and the mountains, LaTouche’s masterwork left me in awe.  He created a wonderful combination of delicate and solid along with this wonderful candid atmosphere.  The Columbia Museum had another painting of his called View of the Eiffel tower from the Trocadero.  I loved his rendering of the fountains and the pink skies.

Not to say that I did not enjoy the pure Impressionists.  As a whole, the artists did a fantastic job capturing water and clouds and truly appreciated the delicacy found in such places.  For example, Jean Francois Raffaelli’s wet streets in The Place d’Italie After The Rain.  Or Albert Marquet’s skillful use of reflections in The Point of St. Louis.  In fact, a lot of painters showed an admiring eye for nature.  Such as Camille Pissarro’s pulsating sun in his painting Sunset at Eragny.  The reproduction I used above this paragraph will never act as an adequate substitute for seeing this work in person.  This eye towards delicacy extended to painting people.  Renoir’s The Picture Book and the child’s hair in it looked so real.  Same with Edmond Grandjean’s The Final Touch with its beautiful brushstrokes also depicting hair.  This atmosphere of diverse talent showed that not all art in this era focused only on blurry executions.  For instance, the flower paintings of Henri Fantin-Latour.  His painting Apple Blossom looked so real and tactile.

In this show, you can view all the big names in person.  Beyond Impressionism, you will gaze into a window of French life.  Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre August Renoir, Henri Matisse, and others all together for you to contemplate.  Working in a linear format, the museum starts with a credit to Edouard Manet for sowing the seeds of Impressionist rebellion to John Singer Sargent.  All depicted the wonders of timeless country life and new, exciting urban cities lit by artificial light.  On any women artists included in the exhibition, they have only two, Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt.

I love the exhibition for showing paintings of big names beyond what I read in art history survey books such as the portraits of Lautrec.  For those who remember Georges Seurat and his painting of La Grand Jatte, you will find Stanislas Lepine’s painting depicting the iconic site called The Island of La Grande in the Summer.  Quite enlightening seeing the place from another point of view.  Plus, you learn about Eugène Boudin, the man who inspired Monet.  Looking at Boudin’s painting, The Beach at Benerville, Low Tide, I saw how the people in it look so flat and tiny in the background.  You could mistake them for paper dolls.  He did it again in Environs at Trouville (seen above this paragraph) in where people practically resemble ghosts.  Monet did this in Impression: Sunrise with the tiny boat people.  Depicting humans surrounded by nature continued in Paul Gauguin’s Bathing in front of the Port of Pont Aven.  If you notice in the second to last painting in this post, you will see that he even made little tiny lines that creates this lively nature that swallows the lone human in the painting.

This exhibition also gave an atmosphere of friendship.  According to the text boxes next to the paintings, practically every artist featured knew each other.  If they weren’t friends, they had a teacher-student relationship.  As mentioned earlier, the teacher-student relationship came from Boudin and Claude Monet.  This connects to the extensive collection of Monet that lets you witness the privilege (and pleasure) Claude Monet’s paintings grow and evolve.  From early Boudin inspired and hazy early work to his later years, you nearly see it all.  One example of friendship cames from Claude Forain and Edgar Degas.  Their work revolved around the Parisian nightlife and the dancers.  On his own, Forain painted scenes of nightlife behavior such as After the Ball and The Reveler.  Similar to Degas, he did an amazing job with his beautiful pastel work.   The exhibition has a painting of his called Woman in a Cafe.  The example I used above this paragraph came from Edgar Degas.  Both him and Forain created these overwhelmingly melancholy atmospheres of women drinking in public places.  Another example of friendship came from Paul Helleu and James Tissot.

 The occasional non-French artist pops up with people such John Singer Sargent with Ramon Subercaseaux in a Gondola.  The water looked so life-like.  Near the end, art by Marc Chagall and Georges Braques make their appearances, as a way to signal the near end of Impressionism.   Looking at Chagall’s The Dreamer, I appreciated his beautiful work with animals and heads.

Going through this exhibition, you will come away knowing how the Impressionists appreciated nature as the urban world encroached upon them.

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