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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.