Impressionist masterpieces

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British National Gallery opens new exhibition starring masterpieces by Monet, Manet and Degas

Edouard Manet, ‘Jeanne’ (‘Spring’) © The J. Paul Getty
Museum, Los Angeles

Three of Monet’s most spectacular large paintings of water lilies will be brought together at the National Gallery in September 2021 in the first-ever exhibition of decorative arts by the Impressionist painters.

In addition to including paintings on canvas, Impressionist Decorations: The Birth of Modern Décor will show how the Impressionists were interested in painting as decoration throughout their careers and made decorative panels, painted doors, tapestries, ceramics, fans, and in one instance, even a mirror frame.

These artworks will be brought together from around the world in the first exhibition to focus on the intimate and elegant objects and the painted interiors that the Impressionists thought should enhance modern life. It will reveal a little-known yet enthralling aspect of the Impressionists’ work through a selection of pictures and rarely seen objects, from Pissarro’s small, delicate faience tiles to Monet’s spectacular ‘Water Lilies’ linked to the artist’s late, colossal ‘Water Lilies’ cycle which he called his ‘grandes décorations.’

Organised by the National Gallery and the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris, the exhibition will cover five decades of Impressionism, starting in the 1860s, when these young, striving artists started to engage with ornamental projects, until the 1920s – a journey through which they completely renewed the genre of decorative painting, while revitalising their art.

Claude Monet, ‘Water Lilies’, 1908
© Dallas Museum of Art

The exhibition will feature more than eighty paintings and objects by Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Morisot, Degas, Cassatt, Cézanne, Manet and Caillebotte, borrowed from major collections including the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford – as well as important private collections on three different continents.

Visitors will be able to experience a largely unexplored facet of the Impressionists’ work; far less familiar than the bright, spontaneous ‘plein-air’ (painted outdoors) canvases for which they are most celebrated today, but no less crucial for the development of their art.

The exhibition will also be seen at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris (13 April – 25 July 2021).

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