Impressions of the AGO show

I didn’t want seeing the show to be last minute, so Danica and I headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario this morning. Impressionism in the Age of Industry closes May 5th.

It’s a timed-visit show but we arrived early and got right in. Well attended, but not too crowded.

Curators have done a good job of putting Impressionism in context, surrounding a few ultra-famous Impressionists with photography, prints, sculptures and paintings by lesser known but very able contemporaries.

Le Pont dd l’Europe by Gustave Caillebotte, oil on canvas, 1876

The educational ambition of the show is to break a common notion that Impressionist art is all pretty scenes and flowers. The works displayed celebrate modernity and social upheaval with images of iron construction, trains and industry. Labourers are elevated to heroic stature. Gentrified middle class citizens become worthy subjects, just as aristocrats had been in the past.

Watching digitized film footage from 1895. Photos and prints also supplement the paintings.

There is a lot to see and learn, including film of street scenes and factory workers from as early as 1895. Did you lnow they were filming that far back? I didn’t, and I saw images by artists previously unknown to me.

I liked the rail lines in this 1905 train picture by Henri Ottman. First piece I’ve seen by him.

Famous names represented include Pissarro, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Seurat and Sisley. I was especially drawn to the small studies by Seurat, but Degas painted my favourites.

Eiffel Tower by Georges Seurat, 1889, oil on panel, Detail, left
Cotton Merchants in New Orleans, Degas, 1873. I love his composition.

You will not see examples of the iconic Impressionist works we all know (with the possible exception of Monet’s Arrival of the Normandy Train, Gare Saint-Lazare, which is there). That’s the beauty of the show. You see pieces that you probably have not seen … up close and personal. You see how big (or small) they are. Do go, if you can.

Gare Saint-Lazare, by Monet, is not as large as its fame. See it here.

Leave a comment