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From Manet to Morisot: 10 Impressionist paintings coming to the UK for the first time

Published 4 August 2020

Wilhelm Hansen scoured 20th-century Paris collecting Impressionist paintings – even buying one from his dentist. Now, these paintings are coming to the UK for the first time in Gauguin and the Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection.

    • The one by the plein-air pioneer

      Claude Monet once wrote to his friend Evan Charteris: “My only merit lies in having painted directly in front of nature, seeking to render my impressions of the most fleeting effect.”

      For Monet, painting en plein air (outside) was at the core of Impressionism, and this work is seen as precursor to a larger, subject-based composition in response to Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe. He intended to challenge Manet’s studio-based painting, but his rebuttal was never finished.

      Claude Monet, The Chailly Road through the Forest Fontainebleau

      Claude Monet, The Chailly Road through the Forest Fontainebleau, 1865.

      Oil on canvas. 97 x 130.5 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one in springtime in Paris

      As the most elderly Impressionist, Camille Pissarro came to play the role of an artistic father figure to many other artists, including Gauguin.

      In 1884 he moved to the Parisian suburb of Éragny, a place which would inspire him up until his death in 1903. He would have painted this from his own home — the barn you see on the left is his studio.

      Despite the tight composition, the luminous blossoms of the plum tree and the animated brush strokes make this a joyous celebration of the fertility of spring.

      Camille Pissarro, Plum Trees in Blossom, Éragny (The Painter's Home)

      Camille Pissarro, Plum Trees in Blossom, Éragny (The Painter's Home), 1894.

      Oil on canvas. 60 x 73 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one picked up at the dentist’s

      Next time you go to the dentist, ask them if they have any Impressionist paintings lying around. It worked for Hansen, who picked up Berthe Morisot’s Young Girl on the Grass from his Parisian dentist, George Viau.

      One of the only paintings by a woman in the exhibition, Morisot shows the private female world as familiar – something her male counterparts often depicted as exotic and alien.

      She shows a 17-year-old Isabelle Lambert posing in a garden, framed by foliage swirling around her with undulating brush-strokes. The caged bird represents the innocence of a young woman at the cusp of womanhood — a future which promises love, as represented by the pansies.

      Berthe Morisot, Young Girl on the Grass, the Red Bodice (Mademoiselle Isabelle Lambert)

      Berthe Morisot, Young Girl on the Grass, the Red Bodice (Mademoiselle Isabelle Lambert), 1885.

      Oil on canvas. 74 x 60 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one that comes after dessert

      This was one of Hansen’s favourite paintings, as well as an excuse for one of his favourite practical jokes. When entertaining guests he’d often invite them for “an extra dessert after the ice cream”. He would then lead them into a separate room, where the “extra dessert” would be revealed as this painting of a basket of pears.

      Acquiring this painting was a personal goal for Hansen as his heart was set on acquiring one of Manet’s incredibly scarce works. His friend and Parisian art critic told him: “I have otherwise no Manet to recommend to you with the exception of the basket with pears that I showed you when you came to visit me. Manets are no longer to be found, they are stuck in museums and private collections.”

      Édouard Manet, Basket of Pears

      Édouard Manet, Basket of Pears, 1882.

      Oil on canvas. 35 x 41 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one from New Orleans

      Degas was plagued by poor eyesight for much of his life, ultimately leaving him nearly blind. He also wasn’t the most likable man – openly antisemitic and misogynistic, he became isolated in his old age and the blindness only added to his bitterness.

      He painted Courtyard of a House while staying with relatives in New Orleans, in a period before he found fame. He spent six months there painting multiple family portraits of his cousins and their children, as well as his breakthrough work A Cotton Office in New Orleans — the first Impressionist work to be acquired by a museum.

      Edgar Degas, Courtyard of a House (New Orleans, Sketch)

      Edgar Degas, Courtyard of a House (New Orleans, Sketch), 1873.

      Oil on canvas. 60 x 73.5 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one by Manet’s only “real” student

      This painting was originally presented as Woman in White, but from 1885 it was exhibited as The Convalescent — conjuring a narrative that appealed to both the Paris Salon and the public. There is a narrative here too: the model – possibly the artist’s mother or sister – is perched on a couch, with a blanket pulled up to her waist and a book clutched in her left hand.

      Gonzalès was Manet’s only formal student, though we know precious little about her. His Portrait of Eva Gonzalès at the National Gallery shows her at an easel but dressed in expensive clothing, implying she was not a serious artist but merely posing as an one.

      Eva Gonzalès, The Convalescent (Portrait of a Woman in White)

      Eva Gonzalès, The Convalescent (Portrait of a Woman in White), 1877–78.

      Oil and charcoal on canvas. 86 x 47.5 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one that never happened

      Here, Cezanne depicts what could be a spontaneous scene of women bathing. It is, however, a complete artifice.

      He did not paint the scene outdoors, and nor did he paint the models in his studio. Rather, Cezanne drew upon pictures, photographs, reproductions of figures from the Louvre, and his own sketches made of work by Michelangelo, Rubens, Delacroix and others whilst visiting the museum.

      Paul Cézanne, Women Bathing

      Paul Cézanne, Women Bathing, c.1895.

      Oil on canvas. 50 x 80.5 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one that’s both Japanese and French

      Painted while Gauguin was staying with Van Gogh at Arles, Blue Trees clearly shows how strongly the Dutch artist influenced him. It also uncovers the ways in which Guaguin followed his own recipe, applying unmixed colours in complementary pairs: yellow with blue, and red with green.

      Inspired by Japanese wood engravings, the cobalt-blue tree trunks clash with the horizontal contours of the landscape behind them. This backdrop forms a dramatic stage for the two subjects placed back to back and somewhat obscured by a tree – a woman in traditional Arles costume and a man with his hands deep in his pockets, uncompromising and threatening.

      Paul Gauguin, Blue Trees, (Your Turn Will Come, My Beauty!)

      Paul Gauguin, Blue Trees, (Your Turn Will Come, My Beauty!), 1888.

      Oil on jute sackcloth. 92 x 73 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Reproduction: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one where figure and landscape merge

      Placing figures within a landscape became a regular motif and challenge for the later Impressionists.

      Here is Renoir’s take on the theme within a small oil sketch, rendering the figure with a more sensual approach than his contemporaries. She is a young Lise Tréhot, his lover and favourite model. He portrays her from a low angle, as if Renoir is lying down and admiring her whilst he painted her.

      She seems comfortable in her pose, her face almost hidden in shadow and her flowing dress merging into the landscape as it stretches across the canvas.

      Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman in a Meadow (Lise Tréhot)

      Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Woman in a Meadow (Lise Tréhot), c. 1868.

      Oil on canvas. 29 x 34.5 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

    • The one from a paradise that never was

      When first moving to Tahiti, Gauguin hoped to live within an untouched, exotic paradise and survive by painting portraits. However, colonial rule had erased the utopian lifestyle he had envisaged and only a few commissions ever came his way. This hypnotising, colourful painting was one of those few.

      The model is Jeanne Goupil, daughter of Gauguin’s neighbor Auguste Goupil, a wealthy lawyer, journalist and member of the colonial elite. Despite her age of nine years Gauguin portrays her as surprisingly mature.

      During his time in Tahiti, Gauguin took 3 young wives (aged 13,14,15), infecting all three with syphilis; the disease that caused his death at the age of 54. Viewed with the knowledge of his predilection for underage girls, this gives the portrait a disturbing undertone.

      Paul Gauguin, Portrait of a Young Girl (Vaïte ‘Jeanne’ Goupil)

      Paul Gauguin, Portrait of a Young Girl (Vaïte ‘Jeanne’ Goupil), 1896.

      Oil on canvas. 75 x 65 cm. © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

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