Major New London Exhibition Features Rarely Seen Masterpieces

A major new exhibition of 97 paintings and sculptures by artists such as Cezanne, Van Gogh, Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Klimt, Käthe Kollwitz, Sonia Delaunay, Kandinsky and Mondrian opened this week at the National Gallery in London. It’s a thrilling show with 32% of the works from private collections, rarely or never seen, (including four from Van Gogh). Don’t miss the chance to see these pieces before they return to their private homes again.

With loans from museums and private collections around the world, After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art (on until 13 August 2023), includes some of the most important works of art created between 1886 and 1914. While Paris was the great art city at the time, the exhibition also highlights other international artistic hubs like Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and Vienna and shows the exciting developments in these cities as well.

After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art explores the main themes in the development of the visual arts in Europe at this time: the break with conventional representation of the external world, and the forging of non-naturalist visual languages, with an emphasis on the materiality of the art object expressed through line, color, surface, texture and pattern.

Highlights of this wide-ranging show include André Derain’s La Danse (Private Collection), Edgar Degas’s Dancers in the Foyer (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen); Paul Cézanne’s Grandes Baigneuses (National Gallery, London); Edvard Munch’s The Death Bed (KODE Art Museums, Bergen); Paul Gauguin’s Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) (National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh); Camille Claudel’s L’Implorante (NogentsurSeine, Musée Camille Claudel); and Lovis Corinth’s Nana, Female Nude (Saint Louis Art Museum, St Louis.).

The thematically arranged show begins with the giants: Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Rodin and closes with some of the most significant modernist works, ranging from Expressionism to Cubism and Abstraction. Right from the outset, visitors will be delighted by the choices of artworks on show. The first-room features two important works by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Paul Cezanne, framed by two radical sculptures by Auguste Rodin (Auguste Rodin Monument to Balzac, 1898, plaster; and The Walking Man (L’Homme qui marche, 1905-7; Musée Rodin, Paris). Viewers will see how The Sacred Grove (Le Bois sacré), 1884/9 by Chavannes influenced the younger Cézanne and Seurat (see A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, 1884)

The Pivotal Figures room presents the three masters, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin. Highlights include Cezanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire (1902-6, Philadelphia Museum of Art) and Van Gogh’s Snow-Covered Field with a Harrow (after Millet) (1890, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). Here we see how these artists and their contemporaries were reconsidering form, surface and space and moving away from representation towards simplification of form, patterned surfaces and an increasingly fractured, mosaic-like application of color.

The avant-garde exhibiting circles of Brussels and Barcelona are on show in the exhibition’s section on New Voices with the work of Pablo Picasso, Jan Toorop and James Ensor and the sculpture of Georges Minne. And, in common with Barcelona and Brussels, the exhibition shows the journeys away from naturalism in New Voices: Vienna and Berlin, highlighting works by Gustav Klimt and Käthe Kollwitz and the work of the Norwegian Edvard Munch, who used Berlin as a platform to establish his international reputation.

New Terrains outlines the various routes into modernism in the early 20th century. which were shaped by the ferment of the previous two decades. This section will recognise the continued dominance of Paris as the art capital of the world by highlighting the emergence of the Fauves, (French for ‘the wild beasts’), the group of early 20th-century modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational or realistic values retained by Impressionism. This section shows the fractured realities of the Cubism of Picasso (Portrait of Wilhelm Uhde, 1910, (Private Collection), prefigured in his Woman with Pears, 1909, (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) and by Georges Braque in La Roche-Guyon: le château, 1909, (Moderna Museet, Stockholm).

And finally, the exhibition closes with the journey towards abstraction in the work of Wassily Kandinsky (Bavarian Village with Field, 1908, (Private Collection); and Picture with White Lines, 1913, (Private Collection) and Piet Mondriaan’s Tree, 1908.

Cleverly organised to provide an extremely engaging experience for the visitor, Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery says “this is a superb selection of works of art lent from public and private collections across the world, many visiting the UK for the first time.”

After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art (until 13 August 2023), National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London.

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