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