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Inspiring Impressionism

The National Gallery on the Mound: Run Until 2nd October

Edinburgh’s National Gallery on the Mound has been host to the hugely popular Inspiring Impressionism exhibition this summer that was host to flocks of visitors during the Fringe.

The exhibition is described as an “ambitious display”, encompassing over one hundred key artworks by the three artists Charles Francois Daubigny, Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh.  Each artist was a key component of different stages of the nineteenth century Impressionist movement in France, and this exhibition shows just how they are interlinked.

The exhibition begins fittingly with a focus on Daubigny, as he is often named the father of Impressionism. In appearance Daubigny has quite an academic landscape painting style although they were in fact highly radical for his time due to a number of his painting techniques. He routinely painted outdoors, ‘en plein air’, explored new modern subjects often hinted at within his landscapes and emboldened his canvases with interesting viewpoints.

Additionally, the more bleak of his subjects, from rough seascapes to winter-frosted fields, add a sense of depth and emotion from the start of the exhibition. This intensity of painting only increases through the three decades on display in the gallery.

A key part of Daubigny’s Impressionist ideals was the use of his studio boat. The artist purchased a ferryboat in the 1850s and had it converted to be suitable as a studio, with a small living arrangement. This allowed him to completely immerse himself in nature when painting, to be surrounded and isolated by the water of a river for when he painted.

Monet too took influence from Daubigny and used a river boat to paint immersed in nature. He focused more on the beautiful ephemeral effects of light and the weather, particularly influenced by Daubigny’s sunsets and nocturnes. Thus Monet’s more experimental landscapes create juxtaposing highlights dotted throughout the galleries.

The importance of this studio boat is depicted in Daubigny’s printed album ‘Voyage on Bateau’ on display here to show how he involved it in his career. However, the final room is given over to a reconstruction of the boat, which lets down the exhibition as an underwhelming finale. Luckily, one can quickly pass through this space as if it were not there, so instead the lasting impression is made by the room devoted to Van Gogh.

Here the exhibition reaches a peak with the final room devoted to the artwork of Van Gogh in comparison to that of Monet and Daubigny. This is particularly in relation to Van Gogh’s proximity to Daubigny’s home in Auvers-sur-Oise in the last few years of his life, a time that produced some of his most intense artwork due to his declining mental state before he took his own life. This final gallery is emotionally charged, visibly so in the expressive method of the artists painting.

Impressionism always draws large crowds to art galleries with its immense popularity, to the point where it has even been suggested that it might become kitsch. However this is a refined example of such an exhibition, drawing different strands of the movement together.

 

Image Credit:Kimbell Art Museum

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