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Monet and the Impressionist Revolution, 1860–1910

Sunday, November 15, 2015Sunday, March 20, 2016

Installation view of Monet and the Impressionist Revolution, 1860–1910. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

1962 Building
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With broad strokes, Monet and the Impressionist Revolution, 1860–1910 highlighted the transformation of Claude Monet's (French, 1840–1926) visual practice. He brought painting to the brink of abstraction, but on no occasion crossed over into completely nonrepresentational imagery. One of the founders of French Impressionism, Monet painted outside en plein air (in the open air), where he refined his use of color to reveal the ambiance of natural light. Monet worked alongside artists including Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919), Édouard Manet (French, 1832–1883), Camille Pissarro (French, 1831–1903), and Alfred Sisley (British, born France, 1839–1899), while leading and serving as an inspirational figure within the movement. Using visible brushstrokes and developing open compositions, the Impressionists were the pioneers of “action painting” long before the time of Abstract Expressionism in the mid-20th century.

Monet embraced the unpredictability of nature. With this, he broke away from linear perspective, refined forms, and other techniques associated with the synthesized style of academic painting. Instead, he experimented with the introduction of bold pigments, a looser handling of paint, and an emphasis on the interplay of color and light. In this exhibition, the evolution of Monet’s ingenuity is presented alongside a similar trajectory of works from the Albright-Knox’s collection of modern art. Spanning five decades—from the heyday of Realism in Western art in the 1860s toward the landfall of abstract painting in the early part of the 1900s—Monet’s works are considered alongside those of other contemporary rebels.

 Claude Monet's Water Lilies, 1908
Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926). Water Lilies, 1908. Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 inches (80 cm) in diameter. Collection Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated. Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.

The impetus behind Monet and the Impressionist Revolution arose in midwinter 2015. The museum decided, as part of an unexpected reciprocal loan arrangement, to mount a small spotlight presentation dedicated to Monet within a larger body of synchronous artists’ works from the museum’s collection. While the Albright-Knox is home to myriad late-19th century masterpieces, it owns only one painting by Monet—Chemin de Halage à Argenteuil (Towpath at Argenteuil, Winter)—a delightful river scene painted on the banks of the Seine in Argenteuil, France, around 1875. Ultimately, the loan of seven additional paintings by Monet and one by Manet (an artist who is not significantly represented in the museum’s collection) from six American museums came to fruition, and serve as the exhibition’s basis. These important loans allowed for a contemplative space within the exhibition dedicated solely to the course of Monet's practice from the mid-1860s to circa 1910. Together, they are framed by the work of artists such as Eugène Boudin (French, 1824–1898), Gustave Caillebotte (French, 1848–1894), Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906), Gustave Courbet (French, 1819–1877), Charles François Daubigny (French, 1817–1878), Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), Berthe Morisot (French, 1841–1895), Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley, as well as post-Impressionist masters André Derain (French, 1880–1954), Raoul Dufy (French, 1877–1953), Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903), Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954), Georges Seurat (French, 1859–1891), Vincent van Gogh (Dutch, 1853–1890), and Édouard Vuillard (French, 1868–1940).

On the occasion of this exhibition, the museum published The Impressionist Revolution and the Advent of Abstract Art. Available for purchase in spring 2016, this book explored the transformative moments and formal innovations in Western art during the second half of the nineteenth century, which tilled the ground for the dawn of abstract painting around 1910. Highlighting fifty works of Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and early abstract art from the Albright-Knox’s world-renowned collection, it was the first publication dedicated to this particular segment of the museum’s holdings.

This exhibition was conceived by Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director Dr. Janne Sirén and organized by Sirén and Godin-Spaulding Curator & Curator for the Collection Holly E. Hughes.

Special museum admission is required to view this special exhibition, including on M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY. Please see below.

Exhibition Sponsors

This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of M&T Bank. Additional support was provided by Amy and Harris Schwalb, Barbara and John Drenning, an anonymous donor, Jay Goldman, Lawley, and Walsh Duffield Companies, Inc.