The Royal Academy is renowned for its prestigious exhibitions, with artists ranging from Van Gogh to Hockney. This month, and until September 23rd you’ll find an array of Impressionist works, celebrating the artists who broke away from the conventional ‘Salon’ of Paris in the 19th Century, and who painted with looser brushwork, manipulated light and used colour in new and evocative ways.
The exhibition is thoughtfully displayed and clearly explained, and the choice of pastel blue walls successfully compliments the works, especially those which contain an abundance of blue tones, such as the landscapes and boat scenes in rooms 2 and 3. I found the works that stood out most were those hung separately from the rest, especially one by Pissarro’s in room 2. I think that perhaps the exhibition could have benefited from fewer paintings, or indeed, a larger space, allowing the viewer to have more time to ponder on each piece separately. Arguably, the display of similar works on each wall allows viewers to observe common characteristics of the Impressionist movement, such as the broader strokes of paint applied with a palette knife for the first time.
The exhibition is organised by genre, beginning with Still Lifes by artists such as Manet (Moss Roses In a Vase – 1882) and ending with Portraits, notably those by Degas and Renoir. One room is dedicated to The Female Figure, including pieces by Renoir, Stevens and Morisot. This room was one of my favourites, as there were only a few paintings occupying each wall, allowing the viewer to connect with the subject on a more intimate level. The portrayal of women as curvaceous and delicate beings was reminiscent of some Italian artists depictions, such as Botticelli’s Venus in Birth of Venus (1486) or Bernini’s Daphne of Apollo and Daphne (1622).
The exhibition text reveals that Renoir had indeed visited Italy in 1881 and consequentially, was exposed to the works of Italian masters. One can see that the tighter brushwork in “Blonde Bather” (1881) is akin to the smooth, highly polished finish of Italian sculpture, or perhaps the soft rendering of form evident in some of Raphael’s works.
Furthermore, the compositional arrangement of the single figure echoed Renaissance trends in portraiture.
The exhibition allows us to witness the exploration of new techniques and priorities in 19th Century art and I would certainly recommend it.
‘From Paris: a taste for Impressionism’ is on at the Royal Academy until 23rd September