Coinciding with San Francisco’s hosting of the America’s Cup races this summer, the Legion of Honor will be exploring the significant role that sailing played in the lives of the Impressionists. Eighty works of art from such notable artists as Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro and Post-Impressionists such as Maurice Denis and Paul Signac reveal their deep passion for and engagement with pleasure boating and regattas.
Examination of the Impressionists’ engagement with boating as both pastime and artistic subject is at the heart of the exhibition. In the countryside west of Paris new patterns of life, including the idea of middle-class leisure, reflected the social and economic energies of an emerging modern world. Artistic innovations such as painting out of doors developed to capture the spirit and quick pace of recreational activities. The Impressionists’ brushwork suggests both the atmospheric effects and the sensations of movement that contribute to the invigorating experience of boating.
As an artistic subject, there could be no better match for the Impressionists than the element of water. The play of light, sense of atmosphere and physical experience of floating in a groundless world were irresistible for artists like Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Signac and Caillebotte (an accomplished sailor in his own right) — key Impressionists who spent many hours at sea, on river boats, leisure craft and floating studios.
Paintings on loan from prestigious international collections, including the Musée d’Orsay, Paris; the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and private collections will be joined by paintings and works on paper from the Fine Arts Museums’ own holdings.
Guest curators Christopher Lloyd, former keeper of Queen Elizabeth II’s collection; Phillip Dennis Cate, former director of the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University; and renowned marine historian Daniel Charles will illuminate the personal interactions of leading French artists with yachting and, more broadly, underscore the important role that access to the sea and extensive inland waterways played in the development of the art, culture, and commerce of France.
“Impressionists on Water” opens June 1
Legion of Honor • Lincoln Park
100 34th Avenue (at Clement Street) • San Francisco, CA 94121
415.750.3600 • http://legionofhonor.famsf.org/
Eugène Louis Boudin. Dunkirk, 1889
Eugène Louis Boudin (12 July 1824 – 8 August 1898) was one of the first French landscape painters to paint outdoors. Boudin was a marine painter, and expert in the rendering of all that goes upon the sea and along its shores.
Caillebotte, Sunflowers along the Seine
Gustave Caillebotte was a French painter, member and patron of the group of artists known as Impressionists, though he painted in a much more realistic manner than many other artists in the group.
Caillebotte, Regatta at Argenteuil, 1983
Caillebotte’s style belongs to the School of Realism but was strongly influenced by his Impressionist associates. In common with his precursors, Jean-François Millet and Gustave Courbet, as well his contemporary Degas.
Monet. Boats moored at Le Petit-Gennevilliers
La Grenouillere, a floating inn on the Seine was one of Monet’s favorite subjects. The play of light on water, the broken reflections of the boats and the clouds reflected on water make this painting a text book example of the his technique.
Monet. The Seine at Argenteuil
From 1860 on, Monet abandoned dark colors and worked from a palette limited to pure light colors. In 1905, answering a question about his colors, he wrote: “As for the colors I use, what’s so interesting about that? I don’t think one could paint better or more brightly with another palette. The most important thing is to know how to use the colors.”
Pissarro, The harbor at Dieppe
Camille Pissarro was a Danish-French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter born in the West Indies. His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism as well as his mentoring of Cezanne.
Renior. Oarsmen at Chatou
As a celebrator of beauty, and especially feminine sensuality, it has been said that “Renoir is the final representative of a tradition which runs directly from Rubens to Watteau.”
Toulouse-Lautrec. The Passenger from Cabin 54
Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman and illustrator whose immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 1800s yielded a collection of exciting, elegant and provocative images.