Saturday, June 15, 2013

'Impressionists on Water' at the Legion

 Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919) Oarsmen at Chatou,1879

 The "Impressionists on Water" show at the Legion has received, at best, tepid reviews from our local art critics. I suppose that they prefer work that is considered more challenging, like the current show of work by Nicole Eisenman at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. 

Impressionism is so familiar to us by now that we have forgotten what a radical movement it was, a new way of experiencing the world through quick sensations, expressed in paint. Even their preferred mode of painting - en plain air - was considered revolutionary. They experienced nature directly, instead of through the medium of staged sets within a studio setting. Their art making depended on the radical changes in art supplies which included portable easels and manufactured paint in tubes. The impressionists created a work without mythology or kings or monsters; one which still speaks to the sensual and sensitive within us.

Paul Signac (French, 1863–1935). À Flessingue (At Flushing, Netherlands),1896

But in these perilous times, where it looks like we might be throwing more money at yet another Middle Eastern country in the middle of a confusing civil war, what would be better for the spirit than experiencing beautiful art? 

Why art that is beautiful became suspect and then, denigrated and even despised is an essay for another time. But for now, imagine yourself floating down the Seine on a summer day in 1898. The Franco-Prussian war is over and the horrors of WW I not even on the horizon. Enjoy a brief moment of tranquility before the 20th century arrived, beginning with optimism and ending with the destruction of so much that was promised but seldom delivered.

Paul Signac (French, 1863–1935). Le Soir (Abend-La Jetée de Flessingue) (Evening), published in Pan,1898

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