Impressionists on Paper: Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec ★★★★★ Royal Academy of Arts | Nov 25, 2023 - Mar 10, 2024


This is a delightful tasting menu of an exhibition. Divided into three sections: Capturing the Moment, New Directions, and The Fin de Siècle and Beyond, the presentation brings to the fore some lesser known artists and gives us a new appreciation of the versatility and virtuosity of those we already know. While the usual stars of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements are represented, there are also interesting works from some lesser known artists. Edgar Degas' "Woman at a Window" (1870-71) and Renoir's "Woman with a Veil" (c. 1877-79) stand in lovely contrast both in technique and treatment to Giuseppe de Nittis' "In the Cab" (1880-83). Pissarro's watercolour over graphite "White Frost" (1890) is beautifully evocative, but we were equally taken by Albert Lebourg's "The Artist's Wife and Mother-in-law Reading a Letter by Candlelight" (c. 1878-79) done in charcoal and graphite. The show offers some of the subjects and treatments that we expect from old favourites, but we also get some surprising work from artists we may think we know. Degas' usual ballerinas and Toulouse-Lautrec's familiar scenes from the circus and the Moulin Rouge are here in chalks, crayons and tempera, but there is also Van Gogh's meticulously rendered "Thatched Roofs" (1884) and "The Entrance to the Pawn Bank, Hague" (1882). These pieces offer a different perspective on the creator of "The Starry Night." Similarly, Paul Cézanne's watercolour "Flowerpots" (c. 1885) show a different side to that popular artist. The exhibition also delivers some insight into the artistic process, and Georges Seurat's "Seated Youth, Study for 'Bathers at Asnières'" (1883) allows for a deeper appreciation of that work in oil. Just as the Impressionists raised the stature of works on paper, this very special exhibition gives a tantalising and informative taste of that important, often neglected, medium.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Image: Edgar Degas, Dancers on a Bench, c. 1898. Pastel on tracing paper, 53.7 x 75.6 cm. Lent by Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums) on behalf of Glasgow City Council. Bequeathed by William McInnes, 1944. Photo: © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

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