Matisse: The Cut-Outs. A review and other thoughts by AHA tutor Richard Stemp

Starting, unconventionally, in Pittsburgh, Richard Stemp looks forward – and back – to Matisse’s Paper Cut-Outs on display at Tate Modern, and then looks forward again to living happily ever after.

I have been to Pittsburgh four or five times, more often, in fact, than I’ve been to Boston or Washington DC, and most Americans would ask, horrified, ‘Why?!’ It still hasn’t recovered from the reputation it gained in the early 20th Century as the soot-blackened, smog-ridden steel capital of the States. But when I first went, way back in 1986 (ah, how time flies), it had just been voted America’s Most Liveable City. Andy Warhol was from Pittsburgh, as was Henry Clay Frick, a coke and steel industrialist whose vast wealth (from all that pollution) allowed him to put together one of the greatest individual art collections, the Frick, which found its home in New York and is one of the highlights of any visit to that remarkable city. Andrew Carnegie, another Steel Magnate and philanthropist from Pittsburgh, is perhaps not as well known, but you can still find Carnegie Libraries across Britain. It is intriguing to think that in the early 20th Century an American thought that the British needed to read, but he was British – a Scottish émigré, in fact, from Dunfermline. He gave his name to Pittsburgh’s wonderful Carnegie Museum of Art, well worth a visit, and home to probably my favourite work by Matisse, a paper cut-out called The Thousand and One Nights.

 

The Thousand and One Nights (1950) Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

I know this image remarkably well. Having seen it several times in the late 1980s, it was still in my mind when I moved in the late 90s.  The new flat was in the basement, and had a long, narrow room underneath the ground floor entrance, ideal as a study. At the far end was a window, perfect for a coffee table and an armchair, so I could sit and read, work and relax at the same time (Matisse once said that art should be like a comfortable armchair). I thought The Thousand and One Nights would look perfect there, and planned to write to Pittsburgh to see if they did a poster. But before I got round to writing, I was forced to go to IKEA. That’s what love does – it makes you go to IKEA. It makes you go to Pittsburgh. True love means you don’t have to do these things if you don’t want to, and, a couple of exes later, I haven’t been to either for a long time now. But this was Kismet – a perfect concept, in this context – as IKEA actually did do a poster, and it fit perfectly on the wall by the window at the end of the study for four years. And, when I moved ten years ago (exes being what they are), it found a place above my bed.

 

I don’t always sleep very well (though better, I’m sure, than Matisse, who suffered terribly from insomnia), but The Thousand and One Nights is the perfect companion for a sleepless night, a great tale well told. Scheherazade knows that the King, angry at the infidelity of his first wife, has killed many subsequent wives after just one night of marriage. Nevertheless, she accepts his proposal, and to save her own life she tells him a story, keeping his attention throughout the night, and leaving off half way through as dawn breaks. She lives to see the day – and to tell the rest of the tale the following night. Only she never finishes. Well, not for a thousand nights, by which time he has fallen in love with her, and from the thousand and first night, we presume, they live happily ever after. Matisse tells his tale in separate sections, using five main ‘blocks’, which he developed separately and then joined together, chapters in a story. The first, a smoking lamp, as night falls, is followed by a stylised, blue female form: Scheherazade herself, perhaps, in obeisance before the King. Flashes of stars, and leaf-like forms take us through the night, which draws to a close with another, smokeless lamp. Day has dawned. And finally, a rich, round, red oval – the rising sun? The warm heart of the story? Or something more sensually direct? And then the image opens up, a red leaf crosses from the hard edge of the last ‘block’ and brings the white background into play, an open-ended, happy ending. Red and pink hearts trail along the bottom, and along the top, black hearts, which alternate with green, trail off into words: “…she saw the dawn appearing, and discreetly fell silent”.

The Dance (1932-33) The Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA.

I’ve always loved the cut-outs, and when I heard that Tate would hold a major retrospective this year I was very happy. Even more so when I heard that the Carnegie – who don’t always display The Thousand and One Nights, paper being so fragile – are lending it to this exhibition. It was remarkable to see it, like meeting an old friend, with whom you’ve been asleep for ten years, for the first time in twenty-five. It’s far larger than I remembered, and the colours far more subtle. Its physical presence, as a made object – not a machine tooled, flat plane of colour – is also essential for its understanding. The flatness of the printed versions of his cut-outs was something that disappointed Matisse himself, even though he developed them, in part, to avoid other disappointments of printing – the subtle shifts in colour, for example, between the preparatory maquette, or model, and the finished edition.

 

Two Dancers (1937-8) Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Initially, paper cut-outs were just a tool for him. He would use them while developing other works, a form of sketching, or drawing with colour. As such it was vital for the development of his mural, The Dance, of 1932-3, for another great American entrepreneur, Albert C. Barnes: the more-or-less vertical bars of pink, blue and black relate to cut-out elements in the preparatory stages. His interest in dance led to a commission to design the ballet, Rouge et Noir, for choreographer Léonide Massine. The stage curtain design is still held together with pins, the same colour as the paper, showing how the individual elements could be moved and adjusted to find the right combination of line and colour. But it was with Jazz – undoubtedly one of the most important artist’s books of the 20th Century – that he began to realise the full possibilities of the cut-out.

 

The Heart (1943), maquette for plate VII of Jazz (1947) Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Jazz is exhibited in its entirety in the Tate exhibition, and is one of the highlights. Indeed, it is exhibited twice, as the final, printed version is displayed alongside the original maquettes. Frustrated, as I have said, by the changes in colour from design to print, Matisse decided to cut into colour itself, using paper painted in exactly the same pigments as the printer’s ink. The original idea was to illustrate poems, but instead Matisse wrote notes about his ideas, his working practice and about the inspiration for the images. The text functions formally, a black and white breathing space between the brilliant intensity of the images. Already, with The Heart, we have the seed for the later tale of Scheherazade, with the same combination of black and green, pink and red, in adjacent blocks, and with the tell tale heart. This is by far one of the simplest of twenty vibrant images. It is wonderful to see them all together, and instructive, too: given the accuracy of the colour, Matisse was now disappointed by the flatness of the final image, and, of course, he was right. Side by side they are still glorious, but somehow lifeless, and later cut-outs were arranged together, loosely pinned to the wall so that cut leaves would wave in the breeze, as three-dimensional works. Different combinations of colours were tested against one another, much as Albers would focus on the square, or Riley on the line. Indeed, the undulating leaf forms so beloved of Matisse allow the maximum interaction between two different colours, in the same way that Riley uses long lines, straight or curving, to maximise the contact between the elements of her chosen palette.

The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952) Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Matisse used the technique to design book covers and posters, ceramic wall panels and stained glass, and even the decoration of an entire chapel (including the priest’s vestments) for the Dominican Nuns of Vence, in the South of France, one of whom had nursed him through a serious illness. But before long he realised that the paper cut-outs could be an end in themselves, they could live free of the restrictions of the canvas, and take up entire rooms. The Parakeet and the Mermaid, for example, was developed on the walls of his studio, and originally wrapped around a corner of the room, while the Oceania works developed, in part, as a way of covering marks on the dull and shabby walls of a room in Paris. As you go round this wonderful exhibition the works get steadily larger, his ideas become freer and you gradually find yourself encompassed by colour. If you do go – and you should – it will be the most positive, glorious and life-affirming thing you see this year – this decade, for that matter, or this millennium – and it will leave you happy, if not forever, at least for now.

 

Feminism in Victorian Art? Emma Greenlees takes a look at two paintings in Paris

I’ve been lucky enough to spend the past five months of my Art History and French degree in Paris,  a city where every walk offers inspiration, and every street a new perspective. Aside from the inherent aesthetic wealth, the collection of art galleries in the city is internationally recognised. One of its lesser-known is the Musée Jacquemart-André, a sumptuous town house – or more accurately town-palace – tucked away behind an unassuming façade on the Boulevard Haussmann. Miles from the hordes of the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre, this gem recently hosted a Pérez Simón collection of Victorian paintings in an exhibition titled Désirs et Volupté.

At the very same time, the Musée d’Orsay was hosting an enormously popular blockbuster exhibition, Masculin/Masculin. The Orsay show dubbed itself a revolutionary exhibition exploring the use of the male nude in art, whilst the former explored Victorian painting with an unspoken emphasis on female sexuality. The Masculin/Masculin exhibition garnered attention purely because of the male subject matter. The Désirs et Volupté, however, was of interest because of the artists. By attempting to subvert stereotypes of gender in art, the Orsay merely reinforced them.

I went to both exhibitions within the same week, and was struck by the contrasts between the two. In Désirs et Volupté the obsession with the female pervaded the work of every (male) artist, and was justified because of their belief in ‘the cult of beauty’. But in Masculin/Masculin, the artists were almost exclusively males who were portraying different aspects of the male nude; creating a selective and collaborative self-portrait of all things masculine.

This prompted me to take a deeper look at the Désirs et Volupté show, and to consider what was being explored here. Interestingly, despite all the artists being men, there was a real emphasis on women, and even a section focussing on the  femme fatale. Was this about the objectification of women, or was it a recognition of their innate power?  Was proto-feminist view being presented in the work of Laurence Alma-Tadema, Edwin Long and their contemporaries?

Alma-Tadema "Roses of Heligobalus"

I picked out two works that seemed particularly interesting to answer this. The first, Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema’s Roses of Heligobalus. Here, the idea of woman as entertainment and play-thing is immediately presentedHeligobalus is differentiated by his clothes: enrobed in a golden gown, he  stands out immediately from the submerged women. It is not clear whether his fascination as he peers down at the women in the foreground is dominant or admiring; perhaps it is both. The women accompanying him share this gaze. The artist, maybe deliberately, creates an enigmatic scenario. As viewer, we are not immediately struck by the stately importance of Heligobalus, but by the frolicking women in the foreground.  The subject of the painting is the women – they are in control here, even though they may not realise it. Subtly, the artist is representing the power of feminine of sensuality.

Long "Queen Esther"

The second work that stood out to me was Edwin Long’s Queen Esther. The exhausted expression of Esther is a clear focus of the painting, but her imposing grandeur and the freedom depicted in the work reflect other messages. She is not a ‘prisoner’ in her situation, there is an open door with flowing curtains through which she could freely exit. The woman dressing her is not scantily-clad for the pleasure of a man, but for her own ease in the heat. These are women making choices for themselves. Why, also, did Long paint Esther in her own chamber and not in an official situation? Surely it was to emphasise her own personality and strength; to allow her to be the central figure, and not to sit alongside (and therefore under) her husband, Ahasuerus. Whilst she might appear miserable, the focus on expressing her sadness makes the painting remarkable as a royal portrait. This painting portrays a queen as a thinking individual, and not just as wife to a powerful ruler.

Suggesting these works  are feminist portraits is perhaps anachronistic. Here the women are not equal to men in stature or power, but equal in their expressions, their physical position, as subjects worthy of deeper observation. What we see here is perhaps a small beginning to a movement which struggles on, even today.

Visions of Paris: Helena Roy reviews Daumier at the Royal Academy

Today we have become so used to the unadulterated mocking of politicians, that direct insults and impersonations are unabashed and abundant. What we find less and less is fantastical caricature and unreal analogy. Daumier’s notorious political satire – currently on display at the Royal Academy – offers a soaring vision of the origins of satirical portraiture, through his uncompromising caricatures of the political elite and bourgeoisie.

Daumier chronicled every day life in nineteenth century Paris with shameless precision – pushing every grimy detail into the spectator’s view. The stars of his portraits come from the margins of society: laundresses, street entertainers, farm workers. He reduced Paris from its dreamy, stony architectural grandeur to its viscous, sordid streets. Working from memory, his figures are harrowingly blurred and distorted – with warm pastels overrun with ribbon-like outlines.

‘The Third-Class Railway Carriage’ (1862-64) was (according to a contemporary commentator) ‘a profoundly expressed observation of working class patience and fortitude.’
'The Laundress' (1861-63)

An unexpected idiosyncrasy is Daumier’s brilliant skill in portraying contemplation, and isolation. Amidst the bustle of city scenes there are voids – blank windows, shadows or walls – which bring out the paradoxical solitariness of city life. Lone figures are common: at the end of the exhibition, there is a peaceful portrayal of artistic beginnings, with light streaming through a window onto a canvas to suggest creative potential (‘The Artist Facing his Work’, 1860-63).

'A Man Reading in a Garden' (1866-68)

The political elite, by contrast, were satirised in a fantastical, grotesque world; mimicking their own misunderstanding of the reality they presided over. Daumier’s process began with cartoonish sculptures in seedy tertiary colours, from which is modelled his distorted figurines. He aimed for high-profile targets; his lithographs moving with all the violence and changeable nature of politics at the time. Monarchy is detailed as a corpse in a coffin, with the sarcastic caption ‘Meanwhile, they keep insisting she has never been better.’ (1872). By the 1870s his satire was intense, powerful and prescient: censorship laws had by now relaxed with the fall of authoritarian rule.

'Rue Transnonain, 15 April 1834' portrays a father crushing the corpse of his little child in a cold, poor attic - all silence and death. Daumier thus condensed the events of riots 13-14 April 1834, where protesters were massacred by government troops.

Faces are gaunt – with pale pink flesh cut under black bone structures. Appalling realities such as cholera epidemics are analogized to fairytale figures. Raw violence is shown in gaunt form. ‘Madame is moving, transferring from the cemeteries. Hurray! The dead are going fast!’ (1867) is an instance of the recurring theme of mortality towards the end of Daumier’s life. Rejected by the censor three times, it is Tim-Burton-esque, correlating the death (the Grim Reaper) with industry (a steam engine) and military armament.

Les Divorceuses (1848)

Daumier separates these two sides of Paris – the laughable and the horribly real – but meshes the mediums and styles in ‘Ecce Homo’ (1849-1852). Daumier was opposed to religion, and though this scene is biblical, it is more a general depiction of protest than an outright illustration of the moment Jesus is condemned to crucifixion. It offers a traditional way of demonstrating the easy manipulation of crowds. Though unfinished, its size is exceptional, its movement animated but skeletal.

‘Ecce Homo’ (1849-1852)

The editor Pierre Véron commented ‘I could never understand how Daumier, so assertive, so revolutionary when holding a pencil could be so shy in everyday life.’ Perhaps he made up for a reclusive personality with an inimitable intensity in his art and its message. He refused to pursue more lucrative mediums such as portraiture, landscape and book illustration, but the truth and skill in his work inspired artists from Picasso to Francis Bacon and Quentin Blake. Daumier thrived on his political indignation. His visions of Paris are – whether fantastical or deleteriously real – as truthful and moving a portrait of an era as can be found.

‘Daumier: Visions of Paris, 1808-1879’ is on at the Royal Academy until 26th January 2014. For more details, visit http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibitions/daumier/.

“With an apple I will astonish Paris.” AHA alum Helena Roy looks at the legacy of Paul Cézanne in the year of his 175th birthday…

On 19 January, it would have been Paul Cézanne’s 175th birthday. The Post-Impressionist painter bridged the gap between 19th century Impressionism and 20th century Cubism, and his inimitably idiosyncratic style is still a source of inspiration today. The portraits, landscapes and still-lifes that dominate his repertoire are iconic – prized by famous museums the world over. In celebration of a matchless artist, here is a concentrated retrospective of his life and work…

Cézanne’s life forever had a backdrop of culture and wealth: he absorbed the influences of Courbet and Manet in his early years; was friends with Emile Zola from childhood (breaking promptly when Zola based an unflattering character on him in the 1880s); and had a strong bond (eventually a collaborative relationship) with Camille Pissarro. His father was a successful banker, affording him a financial security most artists of his time did not receive. (His father’s imposing portrait was one of his earliest works, painted in 1865.)

The Painter's Father, Louis-Auguste Cézanne, 1865 – a work which now hangs in the National Gallery

His early years in Paris (1861-1870) were characterised by murky colours and domineering black – garnering the epithet the ‘dark period’. Cézanne’s work was violently expressive – depicting murder and rape – and he experimented with the use of a palette knife to paint (he later disparaged this technique, telling Renoir it took him twenty years to realise painting was not sculpture). Cézanne started with an edge of Caravaggio’s gloomy shading, as seen in Portrait of Uncle Dominique, (1865–1867).

The Murder, (1867-1868), painted during Cézanne’s ‘dark period’ – which refers to both his style, subject matter and, it is said, his personality at the time
Portrait of Uncle Dominique, 1865–1867, a work of Cézanne’s ‘dark period’, which is now displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

An Impressionist stage followed (1870-1878), during which he flitted between Provence and Paris. Under Pissarro’s influence he abandoned darker hues, shifting to light and airy landscapes. A mature period in Provence (1878-1890), comfortably continued this, encompassing his renowned paintings of Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a mountain in southern France overlooking Aix-en-Provence.

Jas de Bouffan, 1876, painted during Cézanne’s Impressionist period, where lighter shades became predominant
Mont Sainte-Victoire (c.1887), displayed at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Cézanne painted many pictures of this subject during his mature years
Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier, (1893-1894), painted during Cézanne’s twilight years, is the most expensive still life ever to sell at an auction. This painting was sold at Sotheby's, New York on 10 May 1999 for $60,502,500.

Cézanne created some of his most iconic works in his twilight years (1890-1905), including The Card Players (1892) and Les Grandes Baigneuses (1898-1905). Deceptively simple paintings conceal a myriad of subtle shading – but his shapes and colours aren’t realistically detailed. Cézanne used heavy hues, creases and shades to emphasise the contours he found so appealing – giving his ‘impression’ of an object, not the veritable image. He once said ‘painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realising one’s sensations.’ He simplified natural forms to their geometric fundamentals, giving an architectural structure to the nature he portrayed. What you see is not the exact picture, but Cézanne’s feelings – he painted a weighty, thick surface over reality, giving us his ethereal sensation instead.

The Card Players, Fifth Version, (1894-1895) – a work in Cézanne’s iconic series, seen by many as a prelude to the genius work of his final years
Les Grandes Baigneuses (1898-1905), a painting from Cézanne’s renowned series, which hangs in the National Gallery.
Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, (1907), by Pablo Picasso. Painted a few years after Cézanne’s 'Les Grandes Baigneuses', they show the heavy influence the French artist had on Picasso’s work.

As his life became onset with troubles, recognition of mortality crept into his work. A devout Roman Catholic, his faith drew forward in his work as his age slowly got the better of him. He had commented previously : ‘When I judge art, I take my painting and put it next to a God-made object like a tree or flower. If it clashes, it is not art.’

Pyramid of Skulls, (1901) – painted during Cézanne’s ‘final period’ in Provence, when he began to focus more on death and mortality. He painted several still lifes of skulls during his final years.
An Old Woman with a Rosary, (1895-1896) - evidence of Cézanne’s growing dependence on Catholicism during his final years. The painting is displayed at the National Gallery.

Cézanne once said ‘We live in a rainbow of chaos’. He incomparably captured that confusion and beauty, so present in nature, and inspired the colourful works of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, to name but a couple. In a way, his artistic trajectory is cyclical, mirroring life as he experienced it – confused angst and darkness moving into light, and returning to shades of mortality in his final years. His innovation in art is now timeless. Cézanne paved the way for ground-breaking art – allowing future artists to be fearless in bucking trends. His unique visual contribution to history of art just outmatches the attitudes he shaped towards it, which allowed so many after him to try to be different.

With thanks to Wikipedia, the Courtauld Institute and the National Gallery for photos.

 

Paris: AHA semester student Rebecca Asoulin reminisces about their two weeks en France

When I unpacked my bag in Tuscany after taking a sleeper train from Paris (decidedly unlike the ones in the movies!), I found Paris Metro tickets had found their way into everything I own: in the bottom of my shoes, in the pockets of coats I didn’t know had pockets in, and at one point I swear they were multiplying. These tickets are a testament to how much we saw and did in our two weeks Paris.
Our first day in Paris we went to the Louvre with Lavinia and focused on the history of French art: from massive history paintings to delicate Rococo paintings. Our full day at the Louvre was pretty reflective about what the rest of our Paris trip would be like: Harpreet almost fainted when she saw the “Winged Victory”,  we spent half an hour looking for a toilet because there are literally TWO in the entire Louvre (bad museum planning), and a swarm of Brazilian tourists descended upon us as we were looking at Da Vinci’s “Virgin and Child with St Anne” (Emma promptly started talking to them in Portuguese).

 

Tourists scramble for a look at Antonio Canova's 'Psyche revived by Eros' Kiss'

Some other highlights of the trip included an Impressionist walk around Paris in which Olivia showed us the places that impressionist artists had painted, lived and exhibited their work. We stood on the same street that Caillebotte’s “Paris Street; Rainy Day” depicts and we saw a comparison to the painting using a handy AHA iPad.

Caillebotte, Paris Street, A Rainy Day

That night we also had our first Paris crepes at Page 35 which was both delicious and cheap! Other food related deliciousness included Cafe Angelina (Emma’s suggestion) which had the most thick and yummy hot chocolate. Jackie’s dining suggestion led us to L’entrecote, a steak place with magic sauce for Jackie and endless french fries for Harpreet.

We also visited Versailles on a beautiful rainy day to learn about French history with Olivia, visited the Musee d’Orsay where we learned about Realism and Impressionism and visited both the Auguste Rodin and Gustave Moreau House Museums. We learned about modernist architecture by seeing THE modernist building–la Villa Savoy with Lavinia and saw fantastic street signs and bits and pieces of history like recreated rooms, furniture, and royal hair at the Musee Carnavalet.

Steve arrived at the end of the second week to teach us all about modern and contemporary art and with him we learned about Piccasso and Braque as well as how modern movements are related and built from each other.  In fact, Paris was so excited for Steve to come that a fire erupted one block up from us and what seemed like every fireman in Paris came to greet him (!) The last few days of the trip, we went to the Musee de Tokyo and climbed on some interactive artwork and visited the Cartier foundation where we experienced art outside of the canon from places like Brazil and Japan.

By far my favorite experience in Paris was the culmination of two different days. The first in Giverny, outiside of Paris, where we saw Monet’s garden and water lilies and a few days later at the Orangerie Museum in Paris where we saw his eight massive water lily paintings. Being able to see Monet’s water lilies and then see his paintings the next day makes both more alive and meaningful. I enjoyed it so much even my spectacular fall (ouch) and consequent cut didn’t put me off Monet’s wonderful garden.

Yesterday, Emma made up a song and an awesome dance about how lucky we are to
not be in school sitting exams but rather to be experiencing art and food and
life. Being able to be in places and touch and see the world that produces the
art we look at is an incredible experience.

Now back to Italian class!

Ciao

Review! From Paris, A taste for Impressionism at The Royal Academy, by Marie Naffah

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.

Edouard Manet, Moss Roses in a Vase, 1882

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).

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, Museo Villa Borghese, Rome

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.

Pierre Auguste Renoir, Blonde Bather, 1881

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