The exhibit walls are painted in Benjamin Moore colors such as Silken Blue, Mystic Lake and Antiqued Aqua reminiscent of the jeweled tones of the ocean. The vibrato of Edith Piaf singing “La Vie En Rose” echoes through the gallery. The exhibit begins with a quote by the French poet Charles Baudelaire challenging the painters of the late 1860’s to “[m]ake us understand, with brush or with pencil, how great and poetic we are in our cravats and leather boots.” The French Impressionists succeeded by depicting French modern life as vibrant and enchanting.
On view are portraits, scenes of daily life, still lifes, landscapes, interiors, and of course ballerinas. The styles may differ from artist to artist, but each contributes to the distinct characteristics of the Impressionist movement. The long, thin brushstrokes of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec captures the indifferent gaze of a seated dancer.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Dancer Seated on a Pink Divan, about 1883.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir applies thick layers of paint to canvas in order to illustrate the forceful and choppy movement of a rogue wave.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The Wave, 1882.
Camille Pissarro foreshadows Pointillism and uses small patches of pure colors to recreate the scene of a small orchard as viewed from his studio window.
Camille Pissarro. View from the Artist's Studio at Éragny, 1894
One drawback is that there isn’t a catalogue for this exhibit. The museum store offers a book about the Dixon Gallery that features reproductions of some of the works in the exhibit, but there isn’t one specifically for it. However, the collaborative efforts of the Speed Museum and the Dixon Gallery & Gardens have created an exhibit that you will want to return to again and again.
Enjoy the experience of Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color beginning Friday, February 3rd through May 6th at the Speed Museum. Admission to this special exhibit is $5 for members, $15 for non-members. Children under 18 are admitted free to the exhibition with the purchase of an adult exhibition ticket.
photos: Julie Gross