Impressionism – the Wrong Turn

July 27, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART | 0 Comments |

Selections from the Museé d’Orsay, Art Gallery of SA, Adelaide, July 2018

It’s worth a visit to the famous hoard of impressionist works in Paris just for the building:

As for the paintings, well…

A selection of 60 or so was gazed upon by The Varnished Culture recently.  Featured heavily were (sigh!), Monet, Sissley, Pissarro, Renoir, and Manet, with occasional dashes of the often-more-interesting Caillebotte, Seurat, Gauguin, Courbet, and Cézanne, and a sprinkling of lesser players.

On loan, largely from the Museé d’Orsay’s basement, the exhibition has been very popular, and no wonder.  Impressionism has always been popular, except in the very beginning.  But try as we did, we couldn’t avoid the conclusion that impressionism, as an ‘ism,’ was a giant wrong turn, a genuine, creative but misconceived attempt to render what the artist “saw” rather than the objective reality.

That sinking feeling…Paul Signac’s ‘Red Buoy’

Sugary, tending to slapdash, middle-class scenes of sentiment, a tyrannical lording of the eye over the mind, Impressionist works enter the senses and cause a massive brain-freeze that can’t be alleviated by jamming the tongue upon the roof of one’s mouth.  From excitable dots to hasty dashes, the pictures are best viewed through a telescope.  Unfortunately, impressionism opened the door to the Artist as God, meaning that once God was dead, buried and cremated, we all had to genuflect and swear fealty to “The Artist,” no matter how sloppy, self-indulgent, untalented, politically lazy, promiscuously indolent, near-sighted or just plain fraudulent She might be.

Take Mr Water-Lilies himself, Claude Monet (1840-1926), whose tiresome daubs featured as heavily here as that sugar-coated fraud Renoir. Consider 2 of his pieces without lillies or ladies with umbrellas:

Claude’s winter morning is picture-postcard perfect for a man looking in the direction of the sun.  Instead of earthly distant landscape, we are given a wall of bleak snowstorm worthy (if that word is apt) of the later Turner.  It sorts ill with the cloying window-dressing of the foreground.  And notoriously, the shadow of the eponymous magpie is (correctly) inverted and (bizarrely) reversed.

What can we say about Claude’s dubious structures amid a sea of bilious crayon? Not a lot.  Rather than exhorting a working “en plein air,” we’d say: “Mettez cette brosse vers le bas!


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