I love going to the Tate Britain. It’s always a nice walk from Westminster to there along the Thames. And the building itself offers photogenic views (you can’t escape the stairs’ pictures on Instagram). This is without mentioning the very interesting exhibitions there (David Hockney’s was the most memorable one last year). The Tate Britain is currently showcasing many paintings of some of the most iconic French Impressionists of the late 19th century, when they sought refuge in Britain. Here are the highlights of the exhibition.
1870-1871: war times in France
The troubled political context in France, due to the defeat against Prussia in 1870 and the resulting creation of the Paris Commune in 1871 has led to increasing violence and severe famine in the French capital, which entice many people, including artists, to exile.
London welcomed all refugees at that time, regardless of nationality and social status. Several Impressionists crossed the Channel and settled in London until the context in Paris has improved.
The artists presented in this exhibition were all engaged with British culture and landscape and their pieces of art testify of the British lifestyle at that time.
French Impressionists painters in London
London had a flourishing Art market in the late 19th century and artists were inevitably attracted by the British capital. Paul Durand-Ruel, a famous french art dealer, had already moved to London to open a gallery on Knightsbridge.
Among the painters settled in London were Charles-Francois Daubigny, Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro, Alfred Sisley and later came James Tissot.
The “French artists in exile 1870-1904” exhibition
The red thread of the exhibition is to show the connection between the newly settled french artists in London and their environment.
The first room presents the awful conditions in which Parisians were living in the french capital and the reasons for their exile. As painters always seek inspiration of the everyday life, some of them painted Paris during the Commune.
The other rooms present the work of the artists discovering London and its Parks and lifestyle. Camille Pissaro is well represented in this exhibition and we can admire some of its most colorful paintings. His work was not a surprise for me as I am very familiar with it since my first visit to the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. But as a Londoner now, it was funny to recognize Kew Gardens or places in London I regularly visit…
I personally discovered James Tissot at this exhibition. Although I thought he was half english, his anglicized name has nothing to do with his origin. His real name was Jacques Joseph Tissot, and he was very successful in France before leaving to London in 1871. There, with good social and artistic connections, he quite quickly gained popularity as the painter of the “fashionable life scenes”. I really found some of his paintings as qualitative as photographs. Unfortunately I was not able to take pictures in the museum to present them to you…You will have to go and see for yourself!
The Impressionists series
Claude Monet‘s artistic legacy is huge. Among his most famous paintings are the “series”, some of which are presented at The Tate Britain at the moment (maybe the best argument to convince you to go there?).
As for me, the highlights of the exhibition are these different views of the Houses of Parliament, related to the different sun lights during the day.
They are all presented in one room, which was the best way to impress the visitors. And the silence there was eloquent. We were all in admiration for such a beautiful work!
Carpeaux at the Tate Britain
I was at the same time surprised and happy to see the sculptor Carpeaux’s work at this exhibition. Carpeaux arrived in London in 1871 after his studio had been destroyed near Paris. In London, he gained support from British collectors and also worked for the Prince Imperial, son of Napoleon III.
Some of his work is now displayed even if he was not part of the Impressionists movement. But Carpeaux’s sculptures are so realistic that I easily understand the link between him and the Impressionists. Carpeaux recreates perfectly well the energy or emotions in his sculptures. He always offers stunning pieces of art, either in portraits or whole scenes. Don’t miss them if you can!
The exhibition is on until 7 May 2018. You still have time to discover it! Go and share your experience on this blog…
To go further:
The EY Exhibition: Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870 – 1904) information