While defining the specific characteristics that, in its time, made Impressionism provocative and new—a focus on everyday subjects, spontaneity, luminosity, loose brushwork—Inspiring Impressionism launches an in-depth exploration of the links between the Impressionists and the major European art historical movements that preceded them.
Beneath the Impressionists’ commitment to capturing contemporary life, there lay a deep exploration of the art of the past, as well as of their more recent early-19th-century predecessors. The Impressionists learned from art historical sources by making painstaking oil copies executed at such museums as the Louvre. These copies, as well as drawings and sketchbook studies by the Impressionists, are shown with the Old Masters works they copied.
The exhibition then unfolds into a series of subject groups—portraits, still lifes, landscapes, interiors and nudes—with specific comparisons drawn between Impressionist works and the art of the past, as well as broader connections related to issues of subject, composition and technique. These thematic groupings are punctuated with small dossier sections on three artists who drew most heavily on art historical sources: Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne.
June 19–September 21, 2008