The 19th-century’s iconic painting arrives in Switzerland
Gianadda, that spectacular cultural centre in Martigny, specializes in exhibitions you want to wander round more than once.
Its latest show – Hodler, Monet, Munch: painting the impossible (3 February to 11 June 2017) – also demonstrates the Foundation’s knack of finding original themes to group masterpieces of modern painting.
The Fondation Pierre Gianadda has so many terrific works on view in its latest exhibition it can afford to tuck away probably the most iconic painting of the second half of the 19th century: Claude Monet’s Impression, soleil levant (Impression, rising sun,1872).
This was the work that led art critic Louis Leroy in a satirical 1874 article to coin the term impressionism for the late 19th-century painters of light’s infinite variations.
Beware of the reproduction in the Wikipedia article. It is nothing like the painting in the flesh: its original blues and reds and pinks appear all washed out.
You might have caught the exhibition at the musée Marmottan in Paris this past winter. The Munch museum in Oslo is the other partner.
Ferdinand Hodler, the Swiss (1853-1918), the Norwegian Edvard Munch (1863-1944) and Monet (1840-1926) never met. But you might be surprised how similar Monet’s paintings were to Munch’s from the French artist's 1895 trip to Norway.
A painter of lakes
For me the surprise was Hodler. Not just his sensitive and contemplative Walker in the Woods (1885) for its mastery of colour depth. But also his many paintings of largely Alpine scenes around Swiss lakes, magnificent in their representation of water, snow and haze. He wasn’t just a William Tell poster artist.
Munch’s almost painful colours – darks and lights contesting in bipolar theatricality – are counterweighted by earlier works that have a delicacy that Monet could have embraced, while the French painter’s later landscapes could be said to point forward to Jackson Pollack for all their efforts to imitate the effects of nature.
Sunrise or sunset?
Julia Hountou’s brief exhibition notes in the usual Nouvelliste colour pullout are exemplary. She even points out that the title of the iconic Monet work was not the painter’s: “It couldn’t pass for a View of Le Havre,” he said later. “Call it Impression,” he suggested. The catalogue writer added Sunrise to the title.
In fact, the original title described the sun as setting.
The painting is showing in Switzerland for the first time. Philippe Dagen is the exhibition curator. A catalogue with photos of all the works is available for CHF39. The coming three Wednesdays (8, 15 and 22 March) offer commented tours at 20:00.
Followed by Cezanne and Toulouse Lautrec
The next exhibition, scheduled for 16 June to 19 November 2017, is Cezanne: song of the earth. And Toulouse Lautrec follows in December through 2018.