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until September 17 2017
The Impressionists, whose loose brushstrokes, bright colours and light effects brought about a revolution in painting around 1870, were also extremely innovative draughtsmen. The medium lent itself to fleeting impressions of the landscape and urban life far better than paint – chalk and watercolours are quicker to use than oils. This summer Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen presents a magnificent selection of Impressionist drawings from its own collection.
The Impressionists usually used soft drawing materials to create a painterly result. Degas, Pissarro and Renoir often worked with chalk and pastel, Seurat had a distinct preference for conté chalk and Cézanne was an outstanding watercolourist. The Impressionists were not so fond of pen or hard pencil, which in their view defined shapes too sharply. The granular texture of chalk leaves the paper partially exposed, so that light is captured in the drawing. The use of loose and multiple outlines suggests movement in time.
The Impressionists staged their own exhibitions because their innovative works were usually not accepted for the official exhibitions of the Paris Salon. There were always drawings in the eight group exhibitions mounted between 1874 and 1886 – around forty percent of the works exhibited, far more than were on display in the Salon. Thanks to the Impressionists, drawing, traditionally a part of academic training, also became a medium of the avant-garde. Their swift method – drawing against time – and the materials they used created a new freedom in art, which was of great significance to later generations of artists, from Picasso, for whom Cézanne and Degas were important examples, to Richard Serra, whose drawings attest to his admiration for Seurat.
Impressionism is an elastic concept. Most of the artists represented here took part in the group exhibitions staged between 1874 and 1886. Also there were Seurat and Signac, who were soon dubbed Neo-Impressionists, and Cézanne and Gauguin, whose work is regarded today as Post-Impressionist, like that of Toulouse-Lautrec. These late nineteenth-century trends were not about impressions of perceived reality. Compared with the original Impressionists, these later artists took a more conceptual approach, with greater structure and abstraction.
The museum has an important collection of drawings and a sizeable collection of prints in which the way art has evolved from the Middle Ages to the present day is clear to see. In the collection there are works by such masters as Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Antonio Pisanello and Jean Antoine Watteau, and the museum also has a notable collection of Impressionist prints and drawings by many other artists. The thirty-four exhibited works are a selection from this collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist drawings. Among the highlights are five drawings by Manet, four by Degas, four by Renoir, four by Cézanne, three by Toulouse-Lautrec and one by Seurat. Most of them come from the former Koenigs Collection.
In the Print Room from 27 May to 17 September 2017.