Impressionists in London Exhibition at Tate Britain

Charing Cross Bridge by Pissarro

Charing Cross Bridge by Camille Pissarro

I took my grandson to see this fascinating exhibition at Tate Britain, a week or so ago, as he is studying Pointillism as part of his Art GCSE syllabus. The work of Camille Pissarro was much in evidence, so a lot for him to have a look at. This was his first visit to a major gallery, so significant, and as he pointed out, we were looking at originals, so the actual canvases that these painters worked on. I sometimes lose sight of that fact myself.

The exhibition was centred around the work of French painters who fled to Britain in the 1870s to escape the horrors of the Franco-Prussian War. Napoleon III had been captured after the Battle of Sedan, and on his release went into exile with his wife, Eugenie, and their son the Crown Prince, in England, living in Chislehurst. All three are entombed in Farnborough, in the abbey founded by Eugenie. After the fall of the Second Empire the fight went on, culminating in the horrific Siege of Paris in 1871. Civil war followed after a popular uprising by the Paris Commune. Thousands died. Many of the Communards were amongst those who fled to Britain, and who were received without question or restriction.

Many well-known painters arrived and stayed in London. Claude Monet had a suite of rooms in the Savoy Hotel, and painted the Thames and Houses of Parliament in all its moods. He loved the London fog, as did Whistler, credited by Oscar Wilde with the “invention of the fog”

Camille Pissarro, whose house in Louceviennes was commandeered by the Prussians, fled to south London with his mother and other relatives, ruined by the conflict. He lived at Kew, and paintings of his, of the Gardens and Kew Green are on display. He was another fascinated by the Thames and painted similar views to Monet, of the Houses of Parliament through the mist, as well as Charing Cross Bridge in the picture shown.

Not all the arrivals were Impressionists. James Tissot having been introduced by his friend Thomas Bowles, made a name for himself as a painter of High Society. With a great eye for colour and fashion, his paintings of ball gowns and uniforms are magnificent.

Many well-known dealers also followed the painters, and there are many more names that one could mention, but in the final room, is displayed the work of Andre Derain, who was inspired by the London paintings of Monet. He was sent to London in 1906 by the dealer Vollard, and produced thirty canvases from this trip. These were in homage to Monet and covered the same subjects , Charing Cross Bridge, the Thames and the Houses of Parliament. Not to my taste, I think he belonged to a group called the Fauvistes, which believed in the arbitrary use of colour. However, his work is successful, and rounds off this exhibiton nicely

Paintings are on loan from galleries across the world, so a one-off opportunity for most of us to see them. Worth going to, more than once if you can



Exhibition in Woking Lightbox: The Camden Town Group


This painting is by Robert Bevan 1865-1925, one of the the Camden Art School, painting as the name suggests in North London during the Edwardian period

This painting is entitled Dunns Cottage and was painted in Devon, although Bevan was just as at home painting in London, usually horse fairs and horse drawn vehicles. Bevan studied in Brittany in Pont Aven painting alongside Gauguin, and the influence on this painting is plain to see, large blocks of flat colour and unrealistic shades

Other artists represented at this exhibition are Walter Sickert, sometimes known as the father of them all, Spencer Gore and Ginner

Rather like the French Impressionists a few decades before, the Camden group painted contemporary scenes of city life, the streets, theatres, places of entertainment like pubs and circuses. Sickert portrayed young women in the nude at their toilette rather in the style of Degas, who was a great influence. Non erotic portraits of women in dingy surroundings were something he often came back to, as though the flatness of their life was something which fascinated him.

Preparatory drawings of the figures for his famous painting Ennui are also there, a study of tedium and of people trapped in their lives


The Balcony, Mornington Crescent  by Spencer Gore (1878-1914)


The Circus by Charles Ginner (1878-1952)

Ginner was born in Cannes of a British father who established the Pharmacie Ginner. His brother was a doctor on the Riviera . Ginner himself studied art at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and was influenced by the French art of the day. The circus was a favourite subject, and this picture can be compared by one of Seurat, which is in the Kroller Muller Museum in Holland

Ginner moved to London and became an influential member of the Camden group

The quality of exhibitions at the Lightbox continues to improve, and well worth a visit if you are in striking distance. The other exhibition one floor below, on the History of the Comic, extremely informative and comprehensive for those interested in graphic art