Not very much is censored in our world today, we are mostly open about several issues and topics are open to discussion, in most parts of the world anyway. Violence, nudity and divisive points of view used to be much more taboo than they are now…...well the last of the three especially more so now in our new troubling political climate.
When I gaze a Monet’s waterlilies or Degas’ ballerinas, it is hard to imagine that these works were controversial to the point of causing fights. And yet they were.
It is important to recall that the Impressionists wanted to exhibit at the Salon although they rejected its conservative spirit. They were rejected by the Salon mercilessly for a long time before finally being accepted and celebrated.
I had the pleasure attending the Impressionists exhibition in Treviso, Italy. It featured works from Monet to Renoir, Van Gogh to Gauguin.
The exhibition featured 140 works, mostly paintings but also included photographs and engravings. Curated by Marco Goldin, the show offered several comparisons and contrasts between canvases from the same artist and with other artists.
Santa Caterina Museum, Treviso, Italy
I was really thankful to have the VIP tickets so we did not have to join the long line in the cold.
Curiously, the exhibition began with references to classical antiquity, with works by Raphael, Ingres and Delacriox. It mapped out a history of Impressionism, offering the viewer the chance to draw parallels between art movements and step back and appreciate Impressionism’s place in art history from a bird’s eye view. It was a presentation of a slice of a cake with the whole cake in view as well.
I am very fortunate to have attended Impressionist exhibitions before and often found that Japanese and photography influences were inserted as a footnote, tucked away in an obscure corner of the space. Not with Goldin's exhibition.
The paintings were curated tantalisingly with wood cuts by Hokusai and Hiroshige hung next to impressionist canvases as exclamation marks or commas in the viewing experience instead.
The exhibition was a refreshing and eye opening journey through the world at the time of the impressionists, their place in history and their influences.
A few canvases on show, I had never seen before, not even in a book. I was pleasantly surprised. I found that several canvases had 'celebrity' status in my mind and when I saw them before me, I was reminded of the stories behind them and the opinions I had already formed about them.
Somehow, looking at a canvas that I had never encountered before, I reacted differently. I could see the works through the eyes of the Salon and better understood why they rejected these canvases we now accept as works from maestros. The exhibition humanised the Impressionists for me in a powerful way. For the first time, I truly saw them for the rebels they were.
That got me thinking…. if I was being too quick to judge the works of Contemporary artists today that I frankly don’t like. Am I being Salon-ish?
I am not sure if this is the beginning of me accepting some of the outlandish and crude Contemporary art works out there, I have begun preparing myself mentally for the Venice Biennale which proved taxing on me with All the World's Futures in 2015.
I will do my best to keep an open mind and see how I go.
‘HISTORY OF IMPRESSIONISM' AT SANTA CATERINA MUSEUM
The great artists from Monet to Renoir, Van Gogh to Gauguin
From 29 October 2016 to 17 April 2017
Exhibition times at the Museum of Santa Caterina
• Monday to Thursday: 9.00 am to 6.00 pm
• Friday to Sunday: 9.00 am to 7.00 pm
Tickets for the ‘History of Impressionism' show
• Full €14.00
• Reduced €11.00 (students and university students up to age 26 provided with ID, over 65 years, journalists provided with card)
• Reduced €8.00 underage (6-17 years)