Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review – After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art at the National Gallery from 25 March to 13 August 2023

Exhibition Review – After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art at the National Gallery from 25 March to 13 August 2023

The National Gallery presents a major new exhibition of around a hundred paintings and sculptures by artists such as Cezanne, Van Gogh, Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Klimt, Käthe Kollwitz, Sonia Delaunay, Kandinsky and Mondrian. The exhibition is entitled After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art and includes some of the most important works of art created between 1886 and around 1914.

While celebrating Paris as the international artistic capital, the exhibition also focuses on the exciting and often revolutionary artistic developments across other European cities during this period. Starting with the achievements of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Rodin, visitors are able to journey through the art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries created in cities such as Paris, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels and Vienna.

The exhibition explores some of the main themes in the development of the visual arts in Europe at this time especially the break with conventional representation of the human form and external world towards towards the creation of art which experiments with line, colour, surface, texture and pattern.

The first-room Introduction to the exhibition features two by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Paul Cezanne, framed by two sculptures by Auguste Rodin (Auguste Rodin Monument to Balzac, 1898, plaster;) and The Walking Man (L’Homme qui marche, 1905-7, bronze).

The room called Pivotal Figures presents the works mainly of four influential artists, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Edgar Degas. Each of these artist’s in this period represented a major shift in the art world which was felt in Paris and elsewhere in Europe.

The Different Paths gallery makes the point that artists were generally not following a particular school but looking for their own artist voice. Works featured in this section include Louis Anquetin, Emile Bernard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Georges Seurat.

There was some artists that collaborated like the group of young French artists that formed The Nabis (or ‘Prophets’).

The rooms dedicated to New Voices: Barcelona and Brussels, and New Voices: Vienna and Berlin illustrates that each city had its own group of artists experimenting with a new visual language.

The rooms, New Terrains I and II outlines the many routes taken by artists at the beginning of the 20th-century. The rooms feature works by Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian.

This fascinating exhibition provides plenty of insights into a particular period of time when artists paid homage to the past but were interested to create new visual approaches to their art. It is no coincidence that this was part of a wider cultural change in which many areas of the world were undergoing considerable social change due to industrialisation. Technological advances were creating a new world and the art world was not immune from its influence. The modern world seemed full of possibilities compared with the past.

The exhibition illustrates this exciting period in Europe before the horrors of modern warfare bought the hope of a new age to a new realism which ironically saw the past in a very different light.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the National Gallery website here

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