Thursday, 23 August 2012

Impressionists and Post-Impressionists at the National Gallery

Rooms 43, 44 and 45 at the National Gallery contain some remarkable paintings. These are the impressionists, not least Manet and Monet, and the post-impressionists including Seurat, Cezanne and Van Gogh.

For me the prize painting in this collection is A Wheatfield, with Cypresses by van Gogh (1889). For me this is the supreme achievement of impressionism. The artist has captured the essence of the scene in a way that no photographer could, nor even a painter from an earlier school. Is this the field where van Gogh shot himself?

But there are other paintings in this collection which are going to take your breath away. Van Gogh's Chair, for example, an exercise in impressionistic perspective. Seurat's Bathers at Asnieres which is cartoonish rather than pointilist. Lot's of Monet's, but in particular Irises and of course Manet's The execution of Maximillian in its patched up glory.

The National is full of treasures, but these three rooms, for me, hold the greatest attraction. Art on the cusp of moderism. Artists experimenting with images as never before. A recognition that art can express emotion better through its impression than it can through its content.

I wonder what van Gogh would have made of digital photography. And where are today's van Goghs?