Monet, Pissarro, Golden: The London Call

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Monet, Pissarro, Doré: l'appel de Londres
Nocturne in blue and silver: Cremorne's lights (1872) James Abbott McNeill Whistler. - Photo Credits: Joe Humphrys / Tate

In 1870, the Franco-Prussian War and the Commune pushed artists to join England. But they were already a few to exercise across the Channel. The exhibition of the Petit Palais reminds us.

Do not be fooled by this exhibition in 140 works mounted in Small palace, in partnership with Tate Britain. Certainly "Impressionists in London, French artists in exile" includes Monet, Pissarro and Sisley (a British although born in Paris) chased by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and the Commune. But, on the one hand, they were called impressionists only from 1874. Especially it is not only this "reliquat" of the regulars of the coffee Guerbois active in the Channel at this time. The course mentions about thirty names and shows the diversity of motivations and situations in the English capital, from 1870 to the tawny canvases of Derain from 1906.

After a prologue on the ravages of the conflict and the 20,000 victims of the "bloody week" - with a scenography reminiscent of the ruins of the Tuileries Palace and the Pompeian red in the fashion of the time - we understand quickly that the plastic refugees refugees or policies are not legion. A pillar of the diaspora, Alphonse Legros - a realist with an Ingresque line who only rubbed shoulders with the impressionist group - worked in London in 1863. Officer of a battalion of federates, having fled Paris in the spring of 1871, he joined the banks of the Thames for eight successful years. Another example is the sculptor Jules Dalou (present in particular by his large terracotta French peasant breastfeeding 1873, Victoria and Albert Museum, London) is not an avant-garde. It's an academic realist. He found success on the island.

The course also includes a large and beautiful square James Tissot, the opposite of the cursed migrant. Very integrated with the Victorian elite he has been attending since 1863, he even anglicized his first name as Jacques-Joseph in 1859. The most exclusive clubs and the editorial staff of Vanity Fair are open to him. Its exquisite genre scenes, concerts, balls, picnics, boat trips on the Thames, are very explicitly aimed at the high-end clientele. The exhibition also recalls that with Ernest Meissonier, Tissot was the best chronicler of the rigors of the war of 1870 (the watercolor The wounded soldier date of this year) and the Parisian insurrection. Nothing on Degas nor on Manet, volunteer gunners then softly put green during the Commune; in Normandy for the first, in the Pyrenees for the second. Nothing on Bazille, killed too early on the forehead, but whose friends keep the memory. On the other hand Gustave Doréhe was enrolled voluntarily in the National Guard and then a refugee at Versailles, where he was the source of the most dazzling views of London from the first industrial revolution. If this artist sets the scene, it should not be included among the refugees nor seek to recognize him among his characters in the Dickens. His engraved reports date back a few years before 1870, when his work already assures him international recognition and access to worldly circles.

»READ ALSO - Bazille, the Impressionist thunderstruck

It can be seen that the exhibition is not only interested in painters. With the young Dalou, active as Courbet in the management of artistic institutions under the Commune, pardoned in May 1879 and who returned to Paris with a project of monument to the Republic (finally installed in the center of the Place de la Nation in 1899) other sculptors are mentioned. A little Rodin common friendships, but who took the tangent in Brussels and landed in Dover in 1881 to conquer the local market. More Carpeaux whose main patron was Napoleon III. He followed him into exile in Chislehurst. And also in its decline.

Foreign friends

This French diaspora is also described in the company of his foreign friends. Do not talk about the case of Sisley, British nationality. Neither of Giuseppe de Nittis, Italian by birth. The American Whistler stands out on the walls by three of its Thames, nocturnal diaphanous, blue and silver. We also go to British works. Those of the Pre-Raphaelites Alma-Tadema, Burne-Jones or Watts, personalities who participate in the solidarity network. As evidenced, installed in several rooms, vintage telephone terminals. They allow to listen to the conversations of an English journalist with his young cousin and to get an idea of ​​the artistic debates of the time.

Finally, therefore, our future Impressionists represent very little in 1871, both in number and quality. Their canvases are at the same time chilly, of modest format, produced to seduce the gentry, and new since executed in the open air of the modern life. The merchant Durand-Ruel is the bridgehead. His gallery struggles to flow through these tranquil landscapes of Covent Garden, Hyde Park, and Kew Green, high places of the triumphant bourgeoisie. His best selling foal is Daubigny, a pioneer on the island since the 1860s.

Landed in mid-September 1870 Monet is a thirties with wife and child. The household barely survives. He will return only a year later. We find Monet in glory, from 1899 to 1901 in front of the Palace of Westminster. Five oils from his 19-picture series painted from a window of the Savoy Hotel form a magnificent section. The fog mixed with the fumes of coal causes fantastic light effects. Long live the pollution! With Charing Cross and Waterloo, it is more than a hundred canvases that the master executed then.

This maturity is compared to the ardor of young Derain. An exciting rapprochement. Only six years apart, the beast defies the patriarch on his land. But did he see, too discreetly hanging on the Petit Palais, Leicester Square at night (Granet Museum of Aix-en-Provence) of the elder? An electric canvas, incandescent, almost abstract ...

"The Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile, 1870-1904" until October 14 at the Petit Palais, Winston-Churchill Avenue - 75008 Paris. Catalog Paris Museums 272 p., 35 €. Phone: +33 (0) 1 53 43 40 00


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Monet, Pissarro, Doré: l'appel de Londres

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Source: Monet, Pissarro, Golden: The London Call

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