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  • Writer's pictureGabrielle Turnbull

Exhibition with a Difference

Recently I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon with friends attending an art exhibition with a difference.

It had been highly recommended to me by some of the adult students at Art So Lively. The title `Monet in Paris - the French Impressionists Alive` caught my attention as I have never ceased loving Monet’s spectacular yet sublime series of paintings of waterlilies. This unusual exhibition showcased the delightfully alive artworks of the French Impressionist movement of the late 19th Century. It was really comprehensive, including some Impressionists I’d not even heard of. It was also innovative in presentation making the viewing quite a spectacular and beautifully immersive experience. This technology is referred to as Grand Experiences - SENSORY 4TM.

This group of artists were initially not well received by the art establishment. Their style, subject matter and method of making art were considered very radical by their contemporaries. Almost in every way, their work marked a departure from traditional European painting of the time. They were truly responding to their social climate - a world in flux, full of changing and new ideas, technologies and inventions.

The Impressionists turned to painting the everyday people around them, doing everyday things rather than the heroic characters from the Classical world or religious allegories of Christian doctrine. They started painting outdoors or onsite rather than being cut off in the Academy studio. This imbued their artwork with a spontaneity and freshness instead of the staged more formal subject matter of the past. The subject matter was often about people recreating in the parks, cafes, theatres and music halls, on the rivers and in the fields and the natural world.

Adding to this freshness and vibrancy was the new understanding of the science of light. Artists were now very interested in depicting their more scientific understanding of the nature of light. They did this through novel colour combinations and methods of applying paint. Paint was applied more thickly than before and in small strokes or even dots. Often unmixed hues lay side by side to be mixed optically when viewed at a distance. The technology around the production of paint made plein air (outdoor) painting possible with readymade, transportable pigments in tubes.

Claude Monet’s painting of a Sunrise was criticised by an art critic as too impressionistic and not realistic enough. This incident encouraged Monet and other artists such as Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, Seurat, Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot and many more to embrace this term. And so, charged with enthusiasm for this new and exciting way of visually expressing the changing world around them, they formed a formidable and influential artistic community making art differently. Not unlike the novel way the exhibition I saw so recently. Fresh, exciting and innovative use of technology.


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