Tate Britain present over 100 works by Monet, Tissot, Pissarro and others in the first large-scale exhibition to chart the stories of French artists who sought refuge in Britain during the Franco-Prussian War. The exhibition entitled Impressionists in London, French Artists in Exile (1870-1904) explores some of the artistic networks, the French artists built in Britain, and consider some of the ways that London inspired the artists during their stay.
One of the main themes of the exhibition is how the French painters’ were influenced by their observations of British culture and social life. For many of the French artists who were used to the café culture of the French capital, London presented a number of attractions. Camille Pissarro was fascinated by London’s suburbia and green spaces such as Kew Green.
Other artists such as James Tissot were fascinated by British high society and painted a number of paintings which portray the younger members of society at play. He was particularly fascinated by the military officers entertaining the ladies illustrated by The Ball on Shipboard c.1874.
Whilst in London, many of the French artists looked for patrons who could provide support both careerwise and financially. The exhibition looks at the relationship between Charles-François Daubigny and Monet and considers the role of opera singer and art patron Jean-Baptiste Faure. One of works that Faure owned, Sisley’s Molesey Weir, Hampton Court, Morning 1874 is displayed.
Ironically it was to be chance meeting at this time between French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, Monet and Pissarro in London that would lay the foundation for a collaboration that would financially underpin the careers of many impressionist painters.
The exhibition examines how a number of French artists began to influence the British art establishments, Alphonse Legros was influential as Professor of Fine Art at the Slade School in London from 1876 to 1893 and introduced a number of French artists to potential patrons. The exhibition also displays the work of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s whose visits to London were fairly regular in this period.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is the works dedicated to representations of the Thames. This section features the largest grouping of Monet’s Houses of Parliament series in Europe for over 40 years. Monet in particular was fascinated by the Thames, a theme that would taken up by many other artists including Whistler.
In the final room, there is a number of André Derain’s paintings of London landmarks, which were a direct response to Monet’s work but with a colourful twist.
This fascinating and informative exhibition illustrates a short period in time when a number of French artists moved to London due to the Franco-Prussian War. Many of the artists had been attacked in France for their impressionistic paintings and probably welcomed a respite from the criticism. The exhibition provides evidence that the artists became fascinated by different aspects of London life and the Thames in particular became a favourite subject. Perhaps a largely unknown aspect of the artists exile was the role they played in academic circles providing expertise and inspiration for a new generation of British artists.
Video Review available here
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Tate Britain website here
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