Release Date: April 20, 2000
First Exhibition Exploring Argenteuil and its Historic Role in the Development of Impressionism, at the National Gallery of Art, May 28, 2000 - 20 August 20, 2000
Washington, DC—Bringing together more than fifty paintings, including many rarely seen outside private collections, The Impressionists at Argenteuil is the first exhibition to examine the seminal role of the small suburban town of Argenteuil in the development of the impressionist movement. The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where it will be on view 20 May - 20 August 2000, and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, where it will be shown 9 September - 3 December 2000. With special emphasis on canvases by Claude Monet, who as an Argenteuil resident became the focus of the group, the presentation includes colorful, evocative works by his avant-garde colleagues, Eugène Boudin, Gustave Caillebotte, Èdouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. In the 1870s, these six influential artists worked in the open air, often side by side, recording scenes in and around Argenteuil. Their innovative paintings made Argenteuil synonymous with the style that became known as impressionism, characterized by broken brushwork and divided light and color.
The exhibition is made possible by United Technologies Corporation.
"The dazzling, lyrical paintings that make up this exhibition reflect the richness of the impressionists' responses to the Argenteuil site and the complex dialogue that developed among them as they studied and depicted similar motifs and subjects," said Earl A. Powell lll, director National Gallery of Art. "We are extremely grateful to United Technologies Corporation for its support."
"The works of Monet, Manet, and Renoir are as recognized as any in our world today. We are pleased to sponsor this exhibition of the paintings of these and other renowned impressionist masters, including many works held in private collections and rarely seen by the public," said George David, chairman of United Technologies Corporation. "We hope and intend the show to appeal to a wide and interested audience." The Impressionists at Argenteuil will be the sixth exhibition sponsored by UTC at the National Gallery of Art. Previous exhibitions include The Victorians: British Painting in the Reign of Queen Victoria 1837-1901 in 1997 and Johannes Vermeer in 1995/1996.
Monet first settled in Argenteuil, a fifteen-minute train ride from the Gare Saint-Lazare in the heart of Paris, in 1871. During his six years there, his impressionist colleagues came to visit, commune, and paint alongside him. Their broken brushwork, heightened color, irregular surfaces, and a sense of fleeting effects gave physical expression to Argenteuil's towpaths and railway bridges, gardens and factories, sailboats and regattas, and each other and their families. Frustrated by the traditional system of judging and exhibiting works of art in the official Salons each year, the avant-garde artists placed shared goals ahead of individual differences, meeting at Monet's house to lay plans for the independent group show that introduced impressionism in 1874. Examples of their finest canvases highlight the present exhibition.
Monet was not only the central figure in the movement but also the most prolific painter in Argenteuil, completing more than sixty canvases in 1872 alone. Time and again during these pivotal years Monet stood beside one of his artist friends rendering the same scene, such as the Boulevard Héloise with Sisley or a regatta with Renoir. Among the most celebrated pairs in the exhibition, two versions of Sailboats at Argenteuil were painted by Monet and Renoir, each from the same vantage point in 1874, but differing in details that reflect the individual artist's personality and ideas. Another shared theme is the clump of trees that appears both in Boudin's riverfront view, The Seine at Argenteuil (c. 1866), and at the end of the towpath in Monet's painting from upriver, The Promenade at Argenteuil (c. 1872).
Other highlights include Caillebotte's imaginative rendering of Richard Gallo and His Dog Dick at Petit Gennevilliers (1884) and his characteristically forthright image of a distillery, Factories at Argenteuil (1888). Equally meticulous depictions by Caillebotte and Monet of the highway bridge that crosses the Seine into Argenteuil are also on view. Monet's two sunlit views of The Railroad Bridge at Argenteuil (both 1874), a structure that was expeditiously rebuilt after being destroyed in the Franco-Prussian War, contrast with several lush canvases in which he documented his house, garden, and family in the small town. Particularly memorable is his celebrated Woman with a Parasol–Madame Monet and Her Son (1875), from the National Gallery of Art's collection. Several paintings by Renoir of Monet and his family are among the notable portraits. Manet's view of Monet in his studio boat is an aquatic version of Renoir's portrait of Monet painting in his garden.
Guest curator for The Impressionists at Argenteuil is noted Monet scholar Paul Hayes Tucker. Philip Conisbee, the National Gallery's senior curator of European paintings, coordinated the exhibition in Washington.
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
A fully illustrated catalogue written by Tucker and supported by UTC will be available for $24.95 softcover and $50.00 hardcover in the Gallery Shops. To order by phone, call (301) 322-9500 or (800) 697-9350.
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