January 2, 2016

Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh: Impressions of Landscape

Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh: Impressions of Landscape
Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio
February 20 - May 29, 2016
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Pushing the boundaries of traditional landscape painting, Charles François Daubigny (1817-1878) was a vital touchstone and mentor for the subsequent generation of avantgarde artists now widely celebrated as the Impressionists. In the 1850s and 1860s, Daubigny routinely painted outdoors to directly capture qualities of light and atmosphere, launched a floating studio boat on French waterways that fundamentally changed the way artists could frame their compositions, employed radical painterly techniques and exhibited sketch-like works that critics assailed as “mere impressions.” Though an inspiration to artists such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Vincent Van Gogh, Daubigny is now relatively unknown. Until this year he has never been the subject of a major international exhibition, and no exhibition has previously examined Daubigny’s profound influence upon the Impressionists and in turn their influence on his late style.

Co-organized by the Taft Museum of Art, the Scottish National Gallery and the Van Gogh Museum, Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh: Impressions of Landscape revises our understanding of the origins of Impressionism by reconsidering Charles François Daubigny as a central figure in the development of 19th-century French landscape painting, including Impressionism. The groundbreaking exhibition will be on view at the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio, the sole U.S. venue, from Feb. 20 through May 29, 2016. It will travel to the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam later in 2016 and in early 2017.

In addition to one of the Taft’s Daubigny paintings, which prompted the exhibition, Daubigny, Monet, Van Gogh: Impressions of Landscape will also feature spectacular loans from numerous North American and European museums—including the Art Institute of Chicago; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; National Gallery, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Bordeaux; Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh; Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam—and private collections.

“Conceived at the Taft, this very special exhibition reflects the museum’s strength in European art and its strong relationships with a host of distinguished international institutions,” said Taft Director and CEO Deborah Emont Scott. “We are thrilled to bring this stellar group of European works of art to our greater Cincinnati, regional and national audiences.”

Of the 55 paintings in the exhibition, approximately 40 masterpieces by Daubigny will showcase the full range of the artist’s achievements over four decades, including both small easel paintings created outdoors and grand-scale paintings completed in the studio for exhibition. The remainder of the works on view will offer fascinating and often surprising comparisons with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Vincent Van Gogh, revealing Daubigny’s impact on and importance for two subsequent generations of artists, the Impressionists and the Post-Impressionist Van Gogh.

“This exhibition stakes a claim for Daubigny’s inadequately recognized achievements as a powerful innovator and precursor to one of the most original art historical movements of all time,” said Lynne Ambrosini, Director of Collections and Exhibitions and Curator of European Art at the Taft Museum of Art. Ambrosini is the initiating curator (and one of five curators) of the exhibition.

In the vanguard of artists who privileged and embraced the immediacy of open-air painting, Charles François Daubigny invented the studio boat and was the first to paint views surrounded by water instead of from the riverbanks. This pioneering compositional technique of stripping away conventional foregrounds to more directly observe nature and capture the effects of light, as well as his radically unfinished painting style and brighter palette, had a powerful influence on the young Impressionists.

Highlights of the exhibition include Daubigny’s images of silvery light and reflections along the Seine and Oise rivers, stormy atmospheric effects at the Normandy coast, dramatic moonlit landscapes, views of lush fields and scenes of blossoming orchards in the countryside outside Paris—the last another subject he invented. These subjects were soon taken up by Monet and Pissarro, whose similarly themed works will also be featured, for example Pissarro’s The Banks of the Oise near Pontoise (1873, Indianapolis Museum of Art), which echoes Charles François Daubigny’s compositions, and Monet’s Autumn on the Seine, Argenteuil, (1873, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia), which was painted from Monet’s emulative studio boat. Daubigny’s panoramic views of the sunny grain-fields near Auvers were admired by Van Gogh, who adopted Daubigny’s then famous double-wide canvas formats for his own pictures of the plains near Auvers. The final section of the exhibition presents five masterpieces by Van Gogh that reveal his debt to Daubigny, including Daubigny’s Garden (1890, R. Staechelin Collection, Basel, Switzerland), which exhibits Van Gogh’s signature swirling intensity.

Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio