The other face of Impressionism

The impressionist movement is approached from the angle of the decorative arts. If only a few scattered elements of these decorations are scattered, we can measure their ambitions and achievements here. It has been ten years since Sylvie Patry had the project to tell the story of Impressionist decor in relation to Monet's Water Lilies (1914-1926). The director of conservation at the Musée d'Orsay was finally able to carry it out with the curator Anne Robbins, bringing together a hundred works from all over the world for the first exhibition ever organized on this theme and whose catalog takes stock of the research. The period covered extends from the 1860s to the hanging of the Water Lilies at the Orangerie des Tuileries in 1927. However, only participants in Impressionist exhibitions were included – Marie and Félix Bracquemond, Caillebotte, Mary Cassatt, Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir. Added to this is Manet, although not belonging to the movement, "because he had a lot of discussions with the Impressionists on these questions of decorative painting", specifies the curator. It should be noted that apart from the Water Lilies, only one element of an Impressionist painted decoration remained in place, these decorations having been dispersed or destroyed everywhere else. The result is exciting because it changes the way we look at works that until now were considered as easel paintings; several have not been presented in France for a very long time. It helps to understand that, depending on the case, the painter does not treat the subject in the same way: on a decorative panel, he pushes the color more and favors the overall vision. Pissarro's monumental diptych, Cows Drinking in Montfoucault's Pond, Autumn and Montfoucault's Pond in Winter, Snow Effect (1875), is a striking example of the artist's sublimation of these constraints. The same is true of the three panels of Caillebotte, Angling, Bathers and Périssoires.(1878), reunited for the first time in decades: characters standing out against a relatively undefined background where a gap of light opens up: the viewer must have felt as if caught up in the scene. Their research also led painters to this all-over effect that will inspire contemporary art. Monet experimented with it with Chrysanthemums (1897, opposite) and found its culmination in what he called his "great decorations", the cycle of the Orangery. As for Caillebotte used it for his unfinished Parterre de marguerites (circa 1893), which the Musée des impressionnismes in Giverny recently reconstructed from the fragments it had.The Large Bathers (1884-1887) by Renoir are the most striking example of the singularity of decorative painting. One cannot understand this scene inspired by classical painting, from which it borrows its subject of Diana getting out of the bath, without noting that the painter entitled it "Bathers. Decorative Painting Essay". It is no longer a question here of painting in the open air but of a work constructed from scratch in the studio, in a fresco-like technique, the color of the nudes being pushed to white. The artist, who has been interested all his life in decorative painting and its techniques, experiments with it here to the point of radicality. Seen in Le Journal des Arts - Elisabeth Santacreu

The other face of Impressionism

The impressionist movement is approached from the angle of the decorative arts. If only a few scattered elements of these decorations are...