For some years now I have been creeping closer and closer to the edge of secretly dismissing Impressionism. I don’t make epic pilgrimages to visit the paintings, or go wild at in one of my internal rock concert moments when I see a Renoir, and I gave up caring about Monet as soon as I walked out of high school. It’s really only out of respect for art history, that I let it benignly sit in the back of my mind and for the most part I don’t provoke it and it doesn’t provoke me. But, but in the spirit of honest blogging, let me confess those soft focus pastel paintings of ‘nice’ picnics, and mauve flowers, and orange hazey sunsets and boats, make me yaaaaaaawn. There are so sugary, it’s no wonder they get reproduced on chocolate boxes and Hallmark cards.
This position of course isn’t the fault of the artwork itself, but the result of…. the age of mechanical reproduction and dare i say it - the bourgeoisie. And by bourgeoisie I mean any Daza or Shaza thats owned either a calendar, poster, notebook, fridge magnet or some other paraphernalia that had a Monet water lily on it. Through mass reproduction and the misplaced art appreciation that could be described as ‘couch-colour-theory' Impressionism has been one of the significant victims of the democratisation of reproduction. Maybe, because I have experienced these mediocre reproductions more frequently than the actual paintings, my anti-impressionism sentiment has carried more weight than my art history knowledge about this particular movement.
My gallery choice du jour was between the vast halls of Impressionism at the Musee d’Orsay and Monet’s Les Nympheas at L’Orangerie. Having visited many of the world’s largest museum collections, I’m now more likely to visit smaller galleries for a more concentrated and contemplative exhibitions, so I opted for the L’Orangerie, which by contrast to D’Orsay's 100's + 100's of artworks, contains a single painting/installation by Monet in two oval rooms. And surprise surprise, what started as an obligationb (go look at famous french art) turned out to be hours and hours of breathtaking wonder. Yes, it was all those things that people say about ‘capturing the light’ etc etc. But mostly I found delight and surprise and a new respect for how radical Impressionism was. Even more radical than Punk's in the 70's. The colours, the gestures, the daring, the abandonment - totally radical.
You can check out a virtual tour of the musee by clicking on this link - and yes I'm well aware of the hypocrisy of my reproductions in this blog. I guess I'm just wanting to explain that the experience of looking at art can never be fathomed through reproductions.