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French art | John McDonald

French art

Colours of Impressionism

April 26, 2018
Claude Monet, 'The Magpie' (1868-69)

Impressionism is probably the most popular art movement of all time – which would have been a surprise to those who participated in the first ‘Impressionist’ salon of 1874. The group was actually called Le Société anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs, and included no fewer than 30 artists. The term “Impressionism” was drawn … More


The Lady and the Unicorn

April 20, 2018
'Mon Seul Desire'

Towards the end of Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll stages a furious battle between a lion and a unicorn. The fight is based on an old nursery rhyme, which plays on the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom, in which the lion stands for England, the unicorn for Scotland. The lion and … More


Monet’s Garden

May 18, 2013
Claude Monet, 1840–1926 Waterlilies, evening effect (Nymphéas, effet du soir) (1897, oil on canvas, 73.0 x 100.0 cm

Approaching the National Gallery of Victoria for Monet’s Garden, I expected to find the moat festooned in water lilies, and enter through an archway covered in climbing roses. The reality was slightly different: the same old bluestone façade, with red and blue Mazdas parked by the doors. After so many years of sponsorship, I’m conditioned … More


Monet preview

May 4, 2013
Claude Monet, Waterlilies (Nymphéas), 1916–19, oil on canvas,150.0 x 197.0 cm

Paul Cézanne paid Claude Monet one of the most famous backhanded compliments in the history of art when he wrote: “Monet is just an eye, but good God, what an eye!”  (“Monet n’est qu’un oeil, mais bon Dieu, quel oeil!”) In his later years that eye failed the great Impressionist at a time when he … More


Radiance: The Neo-Impressionists

January 19, 2013
Georges Seurat, The Seine at Courbevoie, 1885, oil on canvas, 81.4 x 65.2 cm

Georges Seurat is a member of that small, unfortunate group of artists who were destined for greatness but died prematurely. When Seurat was carried off by malignant diphtheria in 1891, at the age of 31, modern art lost one of its most remarkable innovators. It is a loss that bears comparison to that of Masaccio, … More


Toulouse-Lautrec & the Moulin Rouge

January 5, 2013
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Tête-à-tête supper (In a private room – At the 'Rat Mort') (Portrait of Lucy Jourdan) c1899, oil on canvas, 55.1 x 46.0 cm

“The more you see Toulouse-Lautrec the bigger he gets.” Jules Renard   Many will have formed a lasting impression of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), from John Huston’s Hollywood pot-boiler, Moulin Rouge (1952), in which José Ferrer spends the entire film waddling around on his knees, speaking in strings of bons mots. Watching this film again … More


Atget

September 15, 2012
Eugene Atget Rue de l'Hotel de Ville, 1921

Eugène Atget (1857-1927) is often seen as a ‘primitive’ of the camera – photography’s equivalent to the Douanier Rousseau, but this is not a fair comparison. The Douanier was a simple soul, Atget was an equally lonely figure but also a sophisticated, skillful exponent of an art form still struggling for recognition. Although he never … More


Napoleon: Revolution to Empire

August 18, 2012
Napoleon: Revolution

Napoleon: Revolution to Empire, the latest in the National Gallery of Victoria’s popular series, ‘Melbourne Winter Masterpieces’, presents an exceptionally positive view of a problematic figure. Visitors with no prior knowledge of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) might be forgiven for thinking that he and his first wife, Josephine, were two nouveau riche social climbers who went … More