In the visual art world, light has always been one of the most difficult things to capture. How do you paint the way shadows fall on a bed of fresh winter snow, or how can one possibly replicate the chiaroscuro effect of a face peeking from darkness into sunlight?
Perhaps then, the National Gallery’s latest exhibition can shed some light on the subject. Opening this Thursday, the National Gallery presents Colours of Impressionism – Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay as part of their Century of Light showcase. Colours of Impressionism focuses on European works from the 19th Century, tracing a hundred years of developments in artistic movements, bringing in a selection of 67 artworks from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France. This will also mark the first time an Impressionist-focused exhibition will be showcased in Southeast Asia.
Organized over the last four years, Colours of Impressionism will be showcasing works from 19th century European masters, including Renoir, Cezanne, Monet and Manet. Interestingly, Impressionism used to be seen as a negative turn of phrase; in an 1874 review, an art critic felt Monet’s work seemed unfinished due to its loose, short brushwork. Now, it has since come to be considered revolutionary, breaking convention of colour, composition and painting technique.
Curated by Marine Kisiel and Paul Perrin of the Musée d’Orsay, the paintings featured in Colours of Impressionism are spread across 6 rooms, organized thematically by colours used by leading artists of Impressionism in each era. Visitors begin their journey at the ‘black room’ featuring paintings such as Manet’s Goya-inspired ‘Angelina’, proceeding to rooms such as the ‘blue-green room’, featuring paintings such as Monet’s famous water lilies, before ending at the final room featuring Neo-Impressionist works, a highlight of which would be Renoir’s ‘Gabrielle a la rose’. Even for the uninitiated or not so art-savvy, through the easy to understand grouping and useful curator’s notes, these works become accessible, and it’s plain to see why they’re considered so beautiful.
Said curator Paul Perrin: “One of the most interesting things about the Impressionist movement is that artists started to take their work outdoors, attempting to capture scenes as realistically as possible, painting quickly to capture precision in moments. Even darkness was no longer simply ‘black’, but a kind of ‘black light’ that emanates from the paintings just as much as light itself, comprised of a prism of colours.”
“We hope that by organizing the paintings as such, visitors have an easier time understanding and appreciating the artworks. Instead of simply organizing them chronologically, which can be exhausting for the viewer, through arranging them according to colour, we hope to have the opposite effect, and viewers eventually ‘see the light’ as they move from room to room.”
The National Gallery is truly having a milestone year with the opening of their second major showcase, sure to draw visitors in throngs as they come appreciate the artistic wonders of 19th Century Europe. Colours of Impressionism is a must see for any visitor interested in learning more about and seeing in person some of the most major Impressionist paintings sure to set hearts and minds aflutter with the sheer skill and finesse displayed in these masterworks. Our photos can’t do these artworks justice; you’ll just have to come down and see with your own eyes the spectacular spectrum of colours the exhibition offers every step of the way.
Century of Light, featuring Between Worlds and Colours of Impressionism, will be shown at the National Gallery from 16th November 2017 – 11th March 2018. For more information and to book tickets online, visit their website here