Australian gallery to present major Impressionism exhibition

Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay
Art Gallery of South Australia
March 29-July 29

The competition for blockbuster shows has been increasing over the past few years, particularly in Australia. For many years the competition has been between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, with shows such as Melbourne’s forthcoming Winter Masterpieces exhibition, “MoMA at NGV” consisting of 200 works from the Museum of Modern Art, Sydney is just finishing “Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age as part of the Sydney International Art Series and Brisbane will be hosting the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art later in the year.

Now Adelaide has announced a major show of Impressionist art opening next month.

More than 65 French Impressionist masterpieces from the collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris will, feature in Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, which charts the revolution of colour that lies at the heart of Impressionism. Curated by Marine Kisiel and Paul Perrin of the Musée d’Orsay for the Art Gallery of South Australia in collaboration with Art Exhibitions Australia, the exhibition underscores the truly seismic nature of Impressionism and offers a new perspective on the 19th century’s most important art movement.

No fewer than 10 exceptional paintings by Claude Monet are presented, including the artist’s celebrated work, La pie (The magpie). Painted by Monet in the open air, the snowscape features a novel palette of pale, lustrous colours, which caused the painting to be rejected by the Salon, the annual official French art exhibition, in 1869. The Musée d’Orsay has lent this painting to the gallery together with Monet’s Un coin d'appartement (A corner of the apartment), Le bassin aux nymphéas, harmonie rose (Water lily pond, pink harmony) and one of the Musée d’Orsay’s five versions of La cathédrale de Rouen. Le portail et la tour Saint-Romain, plein soleil (Rouen Cathedral: the portal and Saint-Romain tower, full sunlight). These works will be displayed alongside celebrated masterworks including Édouard Manet’s La serveuse de bocks (The beer maid), Paul Cézanne’s Le golfe de Marseille vu de l’Estaque (The Gulf of Marseilles seen from l’Estaque), Gustave Caillebotte’s Vue de toits (effet de neige) (Rooftops in the snow [snow effect]) and Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Gabrielle à la rose (Gabrielle with a rose).

From Manet’s Spanish-inspired canvases, picked out in shades of black, grey and brown and with dramatic touches of light, to the rich green and blue hues of the French countryside as painted by Cézanne, Monet and Pissarro, and the rosy pigments of Renoir’s and Morisot’s female figures, Colours of Impressionism recasts the story of the art movement as one of intensifying chromatic brilliance. Also featured in the exhibition are works by neo-impressionist artists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, who heralded a new chapter in the movement through their scientific approach to the application of colour. Examples of materials used by Impressionist painters including palettes and a paintbox, gifted to the Musée d’Orsay from the artists’ families, will also be included.

The Art Gallery of South Australia will be staging the exhibition in one of Australia’s few 19th-century gallery spaces, the Elder Wing, a fitting backdrop for Colours of Impressionism.

Art Gallery of South Australia director Nick Mitzevich describes the exhibition as ‘the most important exhibition ever to be shown at the Art Gallery of South Australia. With so few Impressionist works held in Australian collections, the exhibition presents a rare opportunity for Australians to see the movement’s radical evolution of colour."

Colours of Impressionism will be the first major museum exhibition in South Australia to focus on Impressionist painting and it builds on the Art Gallery of South Australia’s aim to present major international exhibitions and significant works of art to Australian audiences.