The Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay is an exhibit I have been excited to see ever since it was announced late last year. Having studied the impressionists in high school and hearing that familiar names and works would be in little old Adelaide was such an exciting prospect. And unlike a lot of the things I studied in school, they made an impression on me. Familiar names such as Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Morisot, Renoir, and Cézanne had my heart in a flutter. All artists whose work I never expected to have the opportunity to see, particularly not here in Adelaide.
The Colours of Impressionism is a major exhibition, one of the biggest to come to the Art Gallery of South Australia, featuring 65 paintings from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The exhibition tells the story of the evolution of colour throughout the French Impressionist movement of the 19th century.
The French Impressionist movement is one of the most famous artistic movements as it shows the turn from traditional art (which valued realism) towards modern art. Impressionism was revolutionary and led artists to question whether the purpose of art was to produce true and accurate depictions or to produce something which could be enjoyed by all.
When I am in an art gallery I always opt to wander rather than have a guided tour as I enjoy the freedom in lingering by each piece as long as I like. Seeing this exhibition was no different. It was exciting to see so many pieces that were both familiar and others which were not.
For someone unfamiliar with the movement, the display is quite comprehensive and explains everything you need to know about the works you are viewing and the movement they encompass. Information on the movement and the pieces is printed on the walls. You don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy the exhibit.
Impressionism is about capturing the effect of light. This means that the same scene might have been painted on various occasions at different points in the day. It is characterised by small, visible brush strokes and paintings that capture nature and the every-day, giving it a sense of realism. I mentioned earlier that the movement was revolutionary. During this period the range of colours and pigments available for paint was expanding, encouraging artists to experiment in new ways and produce new works focused on colour instead of conforming to the Academy.
The exhibition’s focus on colour is well represented from room to room. It began with the dark, sombre tones which carried over from realism, and moved towards the bright, neons of neo-impressionism and modernist movements such as fauvism.
I would highly recommend checking out the exhibition if you’re in the city, particularly if you have an interest in art-history. The beauty of impressionism is that is breaks away from the idea that art must be entirely realistic. Impressionism provides an impression of a scene or moment without adhering to the strictures of realism.
The exhibit will be showing at the Art Gallery of South Australia until July 29th 2018 and tickets can be purchased at both gallery or online.
Words by Kayla Gaskell