ABU DHABI: The Middle East’s largest exhibition of Impressionist masterpieces has opened at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, just in time for the UAE museum’s fifth anniversary.
Running until Feb. 5, 2023, “Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity” features more than 100 paintings and etchings by the pioneers of Impressionism, including Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, and Gustave Caillebotte.
Known for its lightness, fleeting nature and loose brush strokes, Impressionism took off in 1870s Paris, when the city was propelling into modernity and undergoing social changes. This revolutionary artistic movement remains widely admired until today.
“When you’re facing an impressionistic painting, you still have the feeling that it’s really fresh,” the exhibition’s co-curator Stéphane Guégan told Arab News. “It’s the result of something very direct, very spontaneous. . . It’s the feeling of looking through the painter’s eyes.”
Back then, however, the Impressionists — who had their first show in 1874 — were seen as radicals. They departed from the constraints of highly regarded classic art and, in turn, received harsh criticism from some members of the press and critics.
“It was controversial … Some were more skeptical and even criticized this kind of painting,” noted Guégan. “The paintings were considered unfinished, like sketches.”
“In a way, to sum up the negative response to the first Impressionist show, I would say that they had the feeling that the painters tried to make a fool out of the visitors and amateurs at the time,” he continued.
In some ways, the Impressionists acted as social commentators through their vibrant pictures. There is a diversity to their work, depicting sophisticated train stations and bridges, social outings in the countryside, women in elegant dresses, and tasteful home interiors.
“France and Europe turned into very modern societies and the painters responded to this situation in changing the subject matter of their painting and the way they represented the outside world,” said Guégan.
Aside from exploring themes of portraying urbanization and nature, the show brings fashion into the picture, displaying five costumes from the late 1800s. “There is a connection between fashion and modern painting, because they both tried to respond to the transitory aspect of modernity,” said Guégan.
This French-Emirati cultural event was partly brought to life through an exceptional collaboration with Paris’ famed Musée d’Orsay, loaning for the first time to the Arab world a significant number of its paintings.
Highlights include Manet’s “The Balcony,” Morisot’s “The Cradle,” and an iconic depiction of London’s Houses of Parliament by Monet, dubbed “the father of Impressionism.”
“We wanted to put together this incredible series of masterpieces because we wanted visitors from Abu Dhabi and other parts of the region to have the chance of seeing them,” said Guégan. “It’s never useless to see masterpieces.”