Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm easily impressed and don't mind it a bit

I'm not  sure how it happened, but I have become quietly obsessed with French impressionism, those purveyors of seeing the immediacy of the world around them who styled themselves as the Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers. And for reasons even less clear I'm infatuated with Edouard Manet and Berthe Morisot in particular.

Perhaps the catalyst was visiting Manet's grave at Passy Cemetery in the 16th arrondissement in Paris, a grave that included Morisot (who had married Edouard's brother Eugene), or perhaps it was the multiple visits to Manet's room at the Musee d'Orsay, or maybe the over-consumption of critical studies, casual biographies and historical works that crossed my path over this past year. I don't really know and frankly don't care.

All I know is that I am awestruck by that most revolutionary of ideas promoted by the so-called impressionists, of capturing a moment in time, an "impression" of a person or a space - very much like that other voyeuristic revolution occurring at the same time: photography.
Jeune femme en toilette de bal by Berthe Morisot {Musee d'Orsay}

"Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets" (detail) by Edouard Manet {Musee d'Orsay}

"Edouard Manet" by Carolus-Duram {RISD Museum}

So now I have set myself upon a quest: to visit, in person, as many pieces of impressionist art as possible. I've started with the d'Orsay in Paris (an auspicious beginning I should think) and have twice visited the impressionist collection at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design right here in Providence. The RISD Museum just happens to posses one of the finest pieces Manet every produced and, not surprisingly, his model was his close friend and impressionist artist, Berthe Morisot:

The Museum is free every Sunday from 10am-1pm.

Next on my list before the end of the year are:
  1. the Clark Institute in Williamstown, MA (hopefully before winter sets in) 
  2. the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
  3. the piece de resistance, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.


DBG said...

If you come to NYC, don't skip the Brooklyn Museum. Their Impressionist collection is quite fine and includes many lesser-known but wonderful painters like Caillebotte and a beautiful mother-daughter portrait by Morisot. Happy travels!

Steve Soper said...

Brooklyn!? It doesn't surprise me a bit -- thanks for the tip and it's on our list now. Steve