Tuesday, June 05, 2012

My impression of the Impressionists

Next week is the last week of the Impressionist exhibit at Fort Worth's Kimbell Museum. These are works from the Carter Collection, about which I know little. But I like Impressionists, wanted to see the exhibit but told myself I had no one to go with, it was always so crowded, it was expensive, yada, yada yada. Last week good friend Jeannie Chaffee said she's take me on her membership and assured me it had never been crowded when she was there. We planned to eat lunch at the museum restaurant which always has an innovative menu--sometimes great, sometimes not so great. When we walked in, the place was wall to wall people. First decision: eat lunch elsewhere. We later asked a guard about the crowd and she said Tuesdays are half price. Lesson learned: don't go on Tuesday.
In spite of people everywhere, we were able to view the paintings, read the signage. Jeannie had seen the exhibit several times already, so she could tell me which paintings had interesting stories and which bits of signage I could skip. The exhibit began with Coret, who really paved the way for Impessionists, then moved on to Monet, Degas, Renoir, Toulouse-Latrec, and a few artists I'd never heard of, ending with Gaugain, whose works of the South Pacific don't do much for me. But it was interesting to watch the freedom of technique develop in each artist, and the clear move away from posed portraits of nobles to ordinary people caught going about their lives. I'm on shaky ground talking about art, but it seemed to me that Impressionism has all to do about brush strokes and freedom (not thefirst time I've thought that but it struck me again today).
What struck me even more forcibly was that these artists from the late nineteenth-century were part of a larger cataclysmic change in the social structure of the world. As the Industrial Revolution standardized life and made objects impersonal, artists of all kinds worked to create works that celebrated the individuality of mankind. It wasn't just an experimental period in art--that spirit carried over into architecture, literature, clothing, all aspects of life. I'm particularly interested in it because that same era gave rise to the earliest Craftsman architecture--the subject of my Kelly O'Connell Mysteries. But in a previous part of my life I studied the exploration and conquest (bad word!) of the American West during that same period, and I could even fit that into the pattern--a search for new freedom, new opportunities, a casting off of the old ways. If I could live in another period, I would choose the late nineteenth century, though Jeannie pointed out that the sixties in the twentieth century brought about similarly cataclysmic changes--look at music, clothing, protests, etc. Still, it's about 1875-1900 for me.
Many thanks to Jeannie for a really interesting lunch hour. We left and ate at a favorite local cafeteria and then checked out the summer sale at Williams Sonoma--sort of a prosaic comedown but fun.
A postscript: I used to have a really long print of Monet's water lillies--maybe three feet or more--in the two-story dining room of what I now call "my doctor's wife house." Wondering what ever happened to that--the print, not the house.

No comments: