Oh, Impressionism. Youâ€™re the least offensive of art movements to our modern eye, with your treatment of light and refusal to delve into the tortured interior life of humanity. Who knew that, at your inception, you were considered shocking and radical? We did, thanks to taking Intro to Art History.
Impressionism was distinct from earlier Euro painting styles in its focus on momentsâ€”how the light hits the facade of a church at a certain hourâ€”but not moments of historical import. Impressionists traded in genre pictures (a term first defined as a negativeâ€”not a still life and not a history painting [NSFW if you W for Puritans]. Anyway, genre painting portrays everyday life–people walking around a city, sitting on a bench, or working in a field).
An Impressionist canvas might show light glancing off water, or smoke rising from a chimney, with just a few broad brushstrokes, but the viewer connects with it more intimately than he would with photorealistic representation. Maybe itâ€™s something about omitting details so the audience has to unconsciously participate, supplying their own memories to fill in the broad patches of color.
Who the fuck knows? Not us. What we do know is that these paintings are pretty as all get-out and seriously, you should be going to this museum all the fucking time. Someday youâ€™ll have kids and youâ€™ll move to Connecticut and it will be boring as shit and youâ€™ll miss the days when one of the worldâ€™s great repositories of cultural history was just a subway ride away, but you blew your chance to be a regular there because you got high or spent time with your girlfriend when youâ€™re missing the goddamn point because you donâ€™t seem to realize that you would enjoy being high in the Jaques and Natasha Gelman Collection, or that you could french your sweetheart upstairs while looking at the fucking Rodins which are the most erotic objects in the universe, Legends of the Fall-era Brad Pitt included.
You fucking asshole.
So anyway, in Impressionism, a premium was put on depicting light. Although paint was often applied impastoâ€”thicklyâ€”and the style appears sketchy and imprecise, Impressionists slaved over their compositions as much as their pre-Raphaelite forbearers. A bit of wall text in one of the rooms in the Annenberg Galleries notes, â€œDespite the seemingly rapid brushwork and the summary treatment of detail, [Manetâ€™s portrait of his wife] was preceded by at least two drawings and an oil sketch.â€ Which is of course great, because it takes so much mastery and practice to achieve this effortless, spontaneous effect.
Art. Is the best. Except for Damien Hirst.
PS A moment of silence for Leonore Annenberg, who sponsored 9 rooms of European 19th century painting (one of which we were nominally reviewing here) and who, despite serving in the Reagan administration, donated a shitload of art and money to the Met. The Annenberg Foundation has also given away some $3 billion dollars to institutions like PBS and NPR, which makes her A-OK in our book, Gipper or no.
The Annenberg Galleries (1 of 9)
Highlights: Beardy McBarbarossa (below) (not his real name). He looks kind of sad, but still like he wants to be friends with me.
Memorable Quote: â€œMonetâ€™s art depends on observation of his environment, and to that extent, it is always autobiographical. In his pictures, one can chart the seasons, the weather, or as here, the look of womenâ€™s fashion in 1873.â€ From the wall text for Camille Monet on a Garden Bench, 1873
Next week: Self-portraits in the Modern mezzanine.