Inspiring Impressionism: Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh is the major Summer Exhibition at The Scottish National Gallery this year. This large, impressive and informative exhibition of 95 works from across the world is a must for any fan of impressionist art, and Scottish National Galleries are the exclusive UK hosts for this event. This exhibition was at the Taft Museum in Cincinnati before coming to Edinburgh, and heads off to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam after here.
Charles-Francois Daubigny (1817-78) is, I have to admit, a name I do not immediately conjure up when I think of French Impressionism and artists such as Van Gogh, Monet and Pissarro, but this major French artist is in fact considered by many to be the “spiritual father” of Impressionism, and in this carefully curated exhibition his influence on these giants of impressionism is easily evident as we see their works on similar subjects side by side.
Our first painting here by Daubigny is a landscape from 1836 “Roman Campagna” and we follow his work and influence on other artists through many paintings and rooms, until the final years of his life in the 1870s.
What is most interesting for me in this exhibition is watching just how many styles Daubigny painted in as his experimentation with subjects, colour, and techniques developed. As you look at works by Monet, Van Gogh, and Pissarro beside his work, one of the most obvious differences in many is that Daubigny is working with a darker colour palette, but where he has gone before is where these other great artists follow and expand upon in later years. One of the main things so obvious in this exhibition though is that Daubigny was a master at understanding how the human eye sees the world and how our mind loves to make sense out of often abstract shapes. This is all so evident in one of my favourite paintings in this exhibition…a small painting “Moonlight” from the 1870s. This is a scene of trees in shadow with moonlight behind them, and from a distance looks to the eye exactly as the title suggests, but get close to the painting and the sky and moon are little more than brush strokes of shapes.
Lovers of “poppy paintings” are in for a treat here as we have a large painting of a field of poppies “Field in the Month of June 1874” taking centre place with similar but smaller subject works by Monet and Van Gogh on either side.
This is a large exhibition, and so much to see through so many paintings reflecting Daubigny’s life and what he saw, and those he inspired. This exhibition shows a man who had many contrasts in his life and work. At one point we have Daubigny sailing along the rivers of France in the 1850s on his specially converted studio boat (measuring 28ft x 6ft) living what to many would be an idyllic life of painting and drinking from his good stock of red wine, to a painting called “St Paul’s From The Surrey Side” from 1871 to 1873 created when he and Monet had fled to London to escape the Franco-Prussian War.
The exhibition runs from 25th June to 2nd October.
For further information visit www.nationalgalleries.org
Review by Tom King & Lisa Sibbald