We visited the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s Into Light exhibition last week. It consists of paintings on loan from the Musee de la Chartreuse in Douai, in the north of France, an art museum based in a former Carthusian monastery. They’re the monks who made Chartreuse liqueur; it would have been a nice touch to have the liqueur available for purchase! The exhibition also includes paintings sourced from galleries in Australia that are relevant to its theme.
Very informative notes by the curator, Julie McLaren, are included in this accompanying booklet and all my quotes below come from it or the information panels beside the individual works. The objective is to show the period of transition from the classical work favoured by the French Royal Academy to less formal approaches in the depiction of society and the landscape that occurred between the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Its on until 9 September 2018 and I do recommend a visit. Its a small exhibition but there are some lovely works on display that, unless you’re going to Douai you wouldn’t get to see.
La Nappe roughe (The red tablecloth) painted by Henri Le Sidaner in 1931. He, Sidonier, was under the spell of capturing the fleeting effects of sunlight, as well as having an interest in domestic interiors and intimate scenes; both beautifully illustrated here.
It’s much more formal than this one by Gustave Courbet who was a Realist, challenging perviously held conventions by showing everyday people … in a noble and heroic way. This is a lovely image of the ordinary – a young woman looking at her own reflection, La Reflexion painted in 1864.
There are a few paintings by Eugene Carriere, including this portrait of a woman Profile de femme, 1895-1900; and this landscape (sorry – terrible photo), Magny, la Meule (Magny, haystack), 1901. They were strange paintings, all in a brown monochrome palette aimed at capturing the essence of a person, rather than a direct likeness. He was a Symbolist and was said to have influenced Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period.
This painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait de jeune fille, 1910 was familiar having been in an exhibition of Renoir’s work exhibited at the NGV over a decade ago. I liked it so much I bought a print of it. Beautiful colours reflecting the light. Here’s a close up that shows the intricate brush strokes and occasional blobs of paint required to get the overall effect.
This portrait, Retour du marche (Return from the market) really demonstrates the new focus on depicting ordinary people authentically. It was painted by Jean-Francois Rafaelli date unknown but 19th century. She looks a bit startled but the colours and the way the afternoon light is captured are quite lovely.
This is by Gustave Courbet, 1873. One of his everyday rural scenes painted on a scale previously reserved for grand history paintings. You have to look closely to see the animal in the left hand corner. Click on the painting. Landscape with stag
Here’s a familiar looking painting for anyone who loves Impressionists. Alfred Sisley’s Meule sur les bords du Loing (Haystack on the banks of the Loing), 1890. We’re told that it was the invention of the paint tube in 1841 that allowed painters to paint outside in order to more accurately capture the changing light in the open air. Sisley painted landscapes almost exclusively, often the same thing from different angles. This is beautiful This detail shows how the brushstrokes were broken down into short strokes of pure colour.
Here’s another Sisely, The Seine at Suresnes, 1874; from the Bendigo Art Gallery.
I liked the description by Baudelaire of Romanticism; as situated neither in choice of subject nor in exact truth, but in a way of feeling. This painting by Eugene Isabey is a prime example of a Romantic painter using the drama of the ocean and stormy skies to evoke an intense feeling of the sublime. Contrebandiers embarquant des marchandises (Smugglers loading merchandise), 1837.
The artist, Johan Jongkind who painted this Vue d’Overschie (View of Overschie) in 1856 was one of a number of artists who were precursors to the Impressionist movement. This work marks the division between the highly polished surfaces of early nineteenth century landscape painting and the unconstrained style of the Impressionists. Like the Impressionists he was interested in the ephemeral nature of the environment and here used reflections in water to capture the light.
Here is a detail from a work by another of the precursors to the Impressionists, Eugene Boudin, Un Moulin en Hollande (A mill in Holland), 1884. Boudin met the young Monet in Le Havre and encouraged him to paint outdoors – so we have much to thank him for.
A well known painting by Henri Le Sidaner concludes the exhibition. Le Dimanche (Sunday), 1898. We’re told he usually didn’t paint people, clearly not from any lack of capacity to do so. This represents the culmination of his research into the use of light for poetic purposes. Its a very large painting And here’s a close up. It has a distinctly ethereal feel to it; brought to mind the movie Picnic At Hanging Rock.
The exhibition includes about a dozen paintings by Australian artist to illustrate the influence of French Impressionism and Post Impressionism on Australian artists. This very vibrant coloured work, borrowed from a private collection, is by Australian artist John Russell; Le Fort Antibes, 1891.
Finally I’ve included this painting of three children. Just because it’s so weird! It’s by Louis-Leopold Boilly and called Mes petits soldats (My little soldiers), 1809. Apparently he excelled at making common people appear noble. I’m not sure he succeeds here with his own children. An interesting aside, during the French Revolution, he was condemned by the Committee of Public Safety for the erotic undertones of his paintings. None of that evident here either.