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impressionism | John McDonald

impressionism

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


Tom Roberts

December 10, 2015
Tom Roberts, 'Shearing the rams' (1888-90)

After a winter or two of discontent the National Gallery of Australia is once again open for business. It’s not that one hasn’t been able to visit this renowned institution, it’s just that nobody seemed to be doing so. With a scandal over looted Indian art, and a James Turrell show that ran for no … More


America: Painting a Nation

November 23, 2013
Henry Inman
No-Tin (Wind), a Chippewa Chief 1832–1833
oil on canvas, 77.5 x 65.4 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Gift of the 2008 Collectors Committee
M.2008.58
Photo: Museum Associates/LACMA

“Thus in the beginning,” wrote the philosopher, John Locke in 1689, “all the world was America.” He was referring to a primitive state of social organisation being rapidly improved by British colonialism. Nowadays Locke’s words seem just as true, but it is because America has colonised the rest of the world. For much of the … 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


Australian Symbolism

May 19, 2012
Rupert Bunny - "Pastoral", circa 1893, oil on canvas, 142 x 251cm

There are moments in art history that are fascinating to contemplate but irredeemably minor. This pretty much sums up Australian Symbolism, which plays a supporting role to Impressionist landscape and those paintings of a broadly nationalist persuasion that dominated art in this country in the decades leading up to the First World War. Symbolism in … More


Impressions: Painting Light & Life

February 4, 2012
Julian Ashton, 'Study of Alice Muskett', oil on wood, 1893

A survey of portraiture by Australian artists of the late nineteenth century would seem to be long overdue. Despite the institutional obsession with all things contemporary, the works of the so-called Australian Impressionists – Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Fred McCubbin and Charles Conder – remain the most popular drawcards in our public collections. The problem … More


American Impressionism and Realism

July 25, 2009
Thomas Eakins, The Thinker: Portrait of Louis N. Kenton, 1900, Oil on canvas 82 x 42 in.

“Balzac had described many cities,” wrote Henry James in his late novel, The Ambassadors, “but he had not described Woollett, Massachusetts.” Neither did Balzac get around to describing Brisbane, although to be fair, there was not much to describe in his day. “Woollett”, for James, was a bastion of New World earnestness, industry and ambition. … More