Musée d'Orsay: Impressionism : Paris and Modernity

Impressionism : Paris and Modernity

Edouard ManetThe Fife Player© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski
While old Paris was disappearing under the influence of Baron Haussmann, the painters Jongkind and Lépine, Manet and Degas, Monet and Renoir, Pissarro and Gauguin, were enthralled by the city and its frenetic life. New motifs presented themselves, boulevards, streets and bridges animated by the constant bustle; parks, wholesale markets and street markets animated in the sunshine or huddled under grey skies, and the department stores and shop windows lit by gas light or electricity; stations, cafés, theatres and circuses, horse racing, not to mention the balls and society parties...

As well as these locations, the artists painted the many different layers of society: Fantin-Latour chose austere bourgeois families, Renoir preferred to depict the more elegant middle classes who frequented fashionable places, and high society girls playing the piano. When depicting prostitutes walking the streets, artists such as Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Steinlen made no moral judgements, and even, in the case of Toulouse-Lautrec, revealed a certain empathy.

However, there was also the insistent call of the natural world, the urgent desire to escape from the city... These same artists turned towards more "natural" subjects, to areas just outside Paris (Monet, Bazile, Renoir and Sisley to Fontainebleau, Monet to Argenteuil, Pissarro to Pontoise…) The search for new pictorial experiences led them to retreat to the south of France (Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne) or to Brittany (Gauguin, Bernard), while the Nabis preferred the intimacy of inner worlds.


Caroline Mathieu, chief curator, Musée d'Orsay

Exhibition presented at:
São Paulo, CCBB,
4 August – 7 October 2012
Rio de Janeiro, CCBB, 22 October 2012 – 6 January 2013

4 August 2012 - 6 January 2013

São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro

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