Pi­casso, De­gas and Renoir stayed here

Joanna Leggett goes chas­ing light and life­style in the lo­ca­tions loved by Monet, Manet and friends

French Property News - - Contents -

In the foot­steps of the Im­pres­sion­ists

Step into the Musée d’or­say and the won­der­ful world of the Im­pres­sion­ist painters can be seen at its best. Set be­side the Seine in what was once a rail­way sta­tion, it’s loaded with paint­ings of De­gas’ bal­let dancers, Renoir’s won­der­ful ladies and all the lus­cious land­scapes of the French coun­try­side. Manet, Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh – they’re all won­der­ful to con­tem­plate. I love Renoir’s La Balançoire, the pretty girl sit­ting on a swing with her lovely white dress dec­o­rated with blue bows, and Cezanne’s land­scapes of Mont Ste-vic­toire in Provence. They are a feast for the eyes and both on ex­hi­bi­tion here. Im­pres­sion­ism be­gan in Paris in the 1860s

City of light

Im­pres­sion­ism be­gan in Paris in the 1860s, when artists re­jected the tra­di­tional style of paint­ing in fine de­tail. In­stead they tried to cap­ture the feel­ing – the im­pres­sion – of a fleet­ing in­stant of a scene. Of course it wasn’t pop­u­lar with the es­tab­lish­ment of the day, but to say it flour­ished would be an un­der­state­ment.

By loos­en­ing brush­work and light­en­ing colours, artists such as Claude Monet and Pierre-au­guste Renoir tried to cap­ture chang­ing light and re­flect the ef­fect it gave on sky and wa­ter, con­vey­ing changes in weather.

The ad­vent of the move­ment co­in­cided with a time of mas­sive ur­ban re­newal in Paris. Un­der the aus­pices of Em­peror Napoleon III, Baron Hauss­mann was sweep­ing away the cap­i­tal’s medieval neigh­bour­hoods and nar­row streets and re­plac­ing them with wide tree-lined boule­vards, grand apart­ment build­ings and new parks and squares. All this, it is said, in­flu­enced this new way of paint­ing. Im­pres­sion­ists such as Camille Pis­saro cap­tured this new essence of Paris (it sounds like some­thing you could bot­tle!) in paint­ings. And then there are the evoca­tive pic­tures of sail­boats on the Seine, care­free con­ver­sa­tions over food-laden ta­bles, cou­ples danc­ing in the coun­try­side.

The Paris re­jects

The first ex­hi­bi­tion of Im­pres­sion­ist art was in 1863 in Paris. That year, work by Edouard Manet, Camille Pis­sarro and Paul Cézanne, among oth­ers, was turned down by the jury of the Paris Salon, the world-fa­mous of­fi­cial art ex­hi­bi­tion run by the French gov­ern­ment and Academy of Fine Arts.

The con­ser­va­tive judges had taken of­fence to the un­con­ven­tional themes pre­sented by the Im­pres­sion­ists, es­pe­cially Manet’s Le Dé­je­uner sur l’herbe which fea­tured (shock hor­ror!) ladies who’d taken off their clothes to en­joy an af­ter­noon pic­nic.

How­ever, protests by the artists and their fans came to the at­ten­tion of Napoleon who de­creed that a sec­ond ex­hi­bi­tion should be held, show­cas­ing the re­jected work. Al­though vis­i­tors to the so-called Salon des Re­fusés (lit­er­ally ex­hi­bi­tion of re­jects) poked fun at the Im­pres­sion­ists’ un­ortho­dox art, the event was a cul­tural wa­ter­shed and it wasn’t long be­fore the painters be­gan to gar­ner praise and re­spect.

In Mont­martre’s cel­e­brated Café So­ci­ety, the Im­pres­sion­ists would meet to talk and drink and paint. Mau­rice Utrillo, who was fa­mous for his cityscapes, was born in the neigh­bour­hood and vir­tu­ally lived at Le Lapin Ag­ile off the Place du Tertre, which was a hub of Bo­hemian life.

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