Musée d'Orsay: The birth of Impressionism: The freedom to paint

The birth of Impressionism: The freedom to paint

Claude MonetLunch on the Grass© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
The Birth of Impressionism: the freedom to paint exhibition aims to reproduce the diversity and wealth of an exceptional era, a melting pot of all the movements and all the talents, and seeks to abolish the long-standing polarisation of "good" painting, Impressionism, and "bad" painting, Academism. It is therefore an opportunity to understand the influence they had on one another, and the oppositions.

The Salons made it possible to establish a sort of overview of French painting and to see those who the young artists, gathered around Manet, admired: Daubigny, Troyon, Corot, Delacroix, Puvis de Chavannes, Fromentin, Ricard, and those who they ignored or denounced: Bouguereau, Flandrin, Baudry, Gérôme… all in the same exhibition.
Degas evoked his friendship with Fantin-Latour and Whistler, and was a close friend of James Tissot; Cézanne proclaimed his debt to Courbet and Manet; Monet recalled that it was thanks to Boudin that he became a painter; Manet held Carolus-Duran and Jean Béraud in great regard and esteem.

By presenting this complexity in its whole, the exhibition highlights what made the Impressionists original: painting outside, from nature, in light colours, and instilling the modern feeling all around. Because as the art critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary said in 1867: "There is no need to return to history, to take refuge in legends. Beauty is before the eyes, not in the brain; in the present, not in the past; in truth, not in dreams; in life, not in death. The world we have here, before us, is the world that painting should express."


Caroline Mathieu, chief curator, Musée d'Orsay

9 July - 20 October 2014

Tokyo, National Art Center

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