Mak­ing an im­pres­sion

Caro­line Bu­gler vis­its the first ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion on ‘the fa­ther of Im­pres­sion­ism’ and is in­trigued to see how two younger artists re­sponded to his work

Country Life Every Week - - Exhibition -

If you’d been strolling along the banks of the River Oise in 1859, you might have come across a strange ves­sel bob­bing on the calm waters—a con­verted barge with a hut perched on top —and per­haps even glimpsed an artist sketch­ing at the open end. This was Charles françois Daubigny’s float­ing stu­dio, his botin. Not content with sit­ting on the river­bank, he im­mersed him­self in his mo­tif in or­der to paint from mid-stream and dis­pense with the earthy fore­ground.

Daubigny’s river scenes, with their re­flec­tions, dap­pled light and scud­ding clouds, his coastal panora­mas and his scenes of peace­ful rus­tic ac­tiv­ity, added up to a charm­ing if slightly nos­tal­gic evo­ca­tion of a ru­ral france. They proved pop­u­lar in smart Parisian draw­ing rooms and he en­joyed con­sid­er­able com­mer­cial suc­cess from the 1850s un­til his death in 1878.

But it was not just his bour­geois clients who ap­pre­ci­ated his art: a younger gen­er­a­tion of Im­pres­sion­ist artists found great ap­peal in his ded­i­ca­tion to land­scape, his unas­sum­ing sub­ject mat­ter and close ob­ser­va­tion of weather ef­fects. He, in turn, be­came one of their main champions. This ex­hi­bi­tion of more than 100 pic­tures, the first ma­jor in­ter­na­tional show of Daubigny’s work, looks at its im­por­tance to just two younger painters—monet and van Gogh —who each re­sponded in dif­fer­ent ways.

The link with Im­pres­sion­ism might not seem im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous in Daubigny’s early for­est and seascapes, which are de­picted in vary­ing shades of browns and greens, but, in one can­vas of 1843, Daubigny shows him­self trudg­ing off into the depths of the for­est of fon­tainebleau with his paint­ing equip­ment. There could hardly be a clearer state­ment about the prac­tice of paint­ing in the open air that was later to be so en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­braced by the Im­pres­sion­ists.

As you move from room to room, you also be­gin to un­der­stand how Daubigny’s work de­vel­oped through­out his ca­reer, os­cil­lat­ing between highly fin­ished can­vases and sim­pler sketches. The older artist clearly learned some­thing

Com­pare and con­trast: Daubigny’s Fields in the Month of June (1874, above) and Field with Pop­pies (1890, be­low) by van Gogh

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