In a Canadian exclusive, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is presenting Van Gogh to Kandinsky, Impressionism to Expressionism, 1900-1914. Running until January 25, 2015, this colourful exhibit includes many early masterpieces of modern art.

Barrel-ceilinged galleries showcase pieces from 10 countries and over 60 lenders. In all, the exhibit is comprised of over a hundred paintings, drawings and prints, plus more than 200 photos. Among the wealth of great pieces in this exhibit are twenty paintings, and fifteen prints and drawings that are being shown exclusively at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This highly prized list includes a self-portrait by Van Gogh.

The Pile Drivers/The Pavers (Les Batteurs de pieux), 1902–3. Maximilien Luce, French, 1858–1941. Paris, Musée d’Orsay, gift of Frédéric Luce, son of the artist, 1948. Photo credit: Erich Lessing - Art Resource, NY

The Pile Drivers/The Pavers (Les Batteurs de pieux), 1902–3. Maximilien Luce, French, 1858–1941.
Paris, Musée d’Orsay, gift of Frédéric Luce, son of the artist, 1948.
Photo credit: Erich Lessing – Art Resource, NY

Paris, the Epicenter of Culture

The exhibit begins by taking us back to the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900. The turn of the century was a time of optimism and excitement. Photos and stereographic slides showcase the stunning architecture of each country’s pavilion. Projected in the center of the room, silent film clips show well-dressed crowds, with top hats and parasols, experiencing a wonder of new technology – a moving sidewalk. Over 51 million visitors came to see the scientific, technological, artistic and cultural displays at the exhibition, including the 5,000 incandescent lights at the Palais de l’Électricité.

It was during this time of grand expectations that expressionism began to take root. Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist works shown in Paris and Germany inspired the next generation of artists. On display in the following galleries are some splendid pieces by such influential artists as Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.

The Beach at Sainte-Adresse (La Plage de Sainte-Adresse), 1906. Albert Marquet; French, 1875–1947. Photo Credit: © Estate of Albert Marquet / SODRAC (2014)

The Beach at Sainte-Adresse (La Plage de Sainte-Adresse), 1906. Albert Marquet; French, 1875–1947.
Photo Credit: © Estate of Albert Marquet / SODRAC (2014)

“Van Gogh Struck Modern Art like Lightening”

Vincent Van Gogh had died years before and had only sold one painting during his lifetime, but during the early years of the 20th century his talent was widely recognized. Vibrant colours and expressive brushwork are a hallmark of Van Gogh’s work. Along with Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait, the exhibit includes his landscape piece Pollard Willows at Sunset, The Sower: Outskirts of Arles in Background and his impressionist-styled piece The Restaurant de la Sirene at Asnieres.

Restaurant of the Siren at Asnières (Le Restaurant de la Sirène à Asnières

Restaurant of the Siren at Asnières (Le Restaurant de la Sirène à Asnières), 1887 by Vincent van Gogh Dutch, active France, 1853–1890. Paris, Musée d’Orsay, bequest of Joseph Reinach, 1921
Photo credit © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY

 

Coloured by Emotions

A prominent trademark of expressionism is the use of bold, un-natural colours that reflect emotions rather than reality. Bonded by their desire to paint in this new manner, expressionist artists formed two groups: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluft and Erich Heckel were members of Die Brücke (the Bridge); Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Franz Marc, August Macke and Paul Klee were members of Der Blaue Reiter (the Blue Rider). Lining the gallery walls are fine examples of the work these artists produced.

Arabian Cemetery (Arabischer Friedhof), 1909; Wassily Kandinsky, Russian, active Germany and France, 1866–1944. Photo credit: © Estate of Wassily Kandinsky / SODRAC (2014) Photo bpk, Berlin / Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg / Art Resource, NY

Arabian Cemetery (Arabischer Friedhof), 1909; Wassily Kandinsky, Russian, active Germany and France, 1866–1944. Photo credit: © Estate of Wassily Kandinsky / SODRAC (2014) Photo bpk, Berlin / Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg / Art Resource, NY

The March towards War

As the exhibit continues, the galleries transition from a bright white-walled room to a darkened charcoal grey-walled room. It is a luminary illustration of the march towards World War I. The final gallery is lined with photos from the war: battlefields, convalescening soldiers, and civilians hiding in makeshift shelters. In stark contrast to the film clips of the Paris Universal Exhibition in the first room, the silent film clips shown here feature aerial views of fields scared by innumerable craters, and the devastation of towns almost completely obliterated by bombs. The optimism of 1900 was all but gone fourteen years later, but during those interim years the art world thrived.

For ticket prices and exhibit hours: www.mbam.qc.ca or 514-285-2000

Still Life with Nude, Tile, and Fruit     Max Pechstein

Still Life with Nude, Tile, and Fruit (Stillleben mit Akt, Kachel und Fruchten), 1913 Max Pechstein, German, 1881–1955
Credit: © Pechstein Hamburg / Toekendorf / SODRAC (2014)

 

A Few Exhibit Highlights

The Pile Drivers (The Pavers) by Maximilien Luce: This large neo-impressionist piece shows a group of labourers working collectively to erect a piling. While, in the background, factory chimneys puffing out smoke announce the industrial age. Beautifully detailed, the painting clearly illustrates the workers physical strain.

Beach at Low Tide, Ambleteuse, Evening by Theo van Rysselberghe: The sky seemingly glows in this captivating piece.

The Little Palm Tree by Raoul Dufy: This painting shows aspects of impressionism, neo-expressionism and fauvism.

Peasant in a Blue Smock by Paul Cezanne: A painting of a Cezanne family estate worker. Take a close look at this dignified painting you will notice patches of canvas showing through the blue paint.

Violin and Palette by George Braque: This cubism piece shows a violin and sheet music broken into angular facets.

Arabian Cemetery by Wassily Kandinsky: Filled with bold colours, the figures in this piece have no discernible features.

Stables by Franz Marc: Animals were a favourite subject for Marc, although the horses in this painting are almost indistinguishable.

The Wedding by Henri Rousseau: One of Rousseau’s most famous pieces, the artist placed himself in the painting. Look for the large mustached man standing behind the bride.

Red Eiffel Tower by Robert Delaunay: In this cubist work, the tower is fragmented so as to show the structure from various angles. Unlike many other cubist artists, Delaunay enjoyed working with a colourful, vibrant palette.

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