The Mapfre Foundation have taken advantage of the renovation of the Paris museum to host this exhibition. It's the first time a collection of Impressionist masterpieces has been exhibited in Spain, making it a unique opportunity to gain an overview of the movement that changed the perception of the world and marked the path of modern art.
The history of classical impressionism is demonstrated in this exhibition by masterpieces of art history, highlighting the importance of the Musee d'Orsay as the great world reference for this movement. Impressionism was not simply a school or single artistic movement, but a new interpretation of life, expressed through the painting of intense rural and urban landscapes, as well as social testimonies and timeless portraits.
Entitled Impressionism. A New Renaissance, the exhibition includes masterpieces by the foremost representatives of the movement, as well as by artists who, in the same period, also tried to achieve an artistic renewal more in tune with the modern world, but from other standpoints.
The exhibition begins and ends with one of the most mysterious and influential painters of the period, Edouard Manet. The Fifer, painted on his return from a trip to Spain, where he discovered the works of Velazquez, is the painting that best sums up his artistic complexity, revolutionary modernity and adherence to tradition. Another artist who could not escape the influence of the great master Spanish, was Whistler, as evidenced by the mythical portrait of his mother, whose true title is Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1.
The first attempts at forming a vanguard group are reflected in this exhibition through the Batignolles School. Although he never wanted to exhibit with them, A Studio in the Batignolles by Fantin-Latour places Manet firmly at the centre of the group. Bazille's studio by Bazille, and the portraits that Renoir, Bazille and Monet painted of each other, show the great interaction between the group.
The young artists were seeking a way in which to develop their artistic concerns within a landscape marked by the academic art of the great Salon de Paris, headed by artists such as Bouguereau and Cabanel, who were also to try their own personal assault on modernity. The Salon, however, also welcomed more innovative works such as The Pigeon and The Balloon by Puvis de Chavannes, both allegories of the siege of Paris in 1871 and Young Girls by the Seaside.
Monet comes across as skilled, sensual and sensitive, as evidenced in works such as Saint-Lazare Station, Regattas at Argenteuil and Rue Montorgueil, Paris. The great series of the river Seine at Argenteuil, Vetheuil, and Champrosay, that Monet and Renoir at the same time, perfectly embody Impressionist technique. Compared with the strength of Monet, Renoir is more sensual, and his portraits more delicate, as evidenced by The Swing.
Sisley stands out for his compositional rigour, as demonstrated in works such as Snow at Louveciennes, while, Berthe Morisot's The Cradle firmly demonstrates the place that women artists were beginning to claim.
The closeness between and Cezanne and Pissarro is clear from a comparison of works such as Cezanne's The Hanged Man's House and Red Roofs by Pissarro, which show a very similar composition. But Cezanne's constructive sense, stressed by the fullness of his brushstrokes, is revealed most particularly in his still lifes and in his later works such as Maincy Bridge and The Bay of Marseilles Seen From L'Estaque.
Compared with the stylistic renewal of Monet, Renoir and Cezanne, Degas represents a renewal of classicism. His modernity is based on a fragmentary aesthetic, that allows him to create the illusion of capturing a moment of modern life.
The exhibition, which will subsequently travel to the U.S.A., closes brilliantly with works by Manet: Portrait of Georges Clemenceau, Women with fans - a portrait of the eccentric Nina de Callias and Portrait of Stephane Mallarme.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Mapfre Foundation is offering guided workshops for families. By means of great masterpieces of Impressionism, children have a chance to delve into topics such as colour, light, outdoor painting and modern life. Workshops last two hours and the price is 4 € per person.
Impressionism. A new Renaissance. Mapfre Foundation (Madrid)
Information & reservations: tel. 913 232 872 / 655 19 92 23.