Thursday, March 21, 2019

AGO - Impressionism

Tom hosts Tuesday's Treasures.

March 2019 - Toronto ON

As soon as tickets were available for the Impressionism exhibit at the AGO, Art Gallery of Ontario, I booked two tickets online.

Below is the AGO description.


Pulsing with life, Paris in the 1870s was transforming – thanks to wider streets, increased traffic, an explosion of factories in the suburbs and faster, more frequent steam-powered trains. No one in France was immune to the rapid pace of change, least of all artists.

Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and more explores how French Impressionist artists and their contemporaries, famous for their lush landscapes and sea vistas, were equally obsessed with capturing the spirit of the industrial age. The groundbreaking exhibition features over 120 artworks, including paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, sculptures and period films.

Immediately you are transported to an 19th century Parisian train station.

As you listen to the sounds of the trains you can read a timeline of Paris during this time.

John and I shared a giggle as we realized that his last name, Poubelle, literally translates to "trash can" from French to English..

The Eiffel Tower, La Tour Eiffel in French, was the main exhibit of the Paris Exposition — or World's Fair — of 1889. It was constructed to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and to demonstrate France's industrial prowess to the world.

Eiffel Tower fun facts

  • Gustave Eiffel used latticed wrought iron to construct the tower to demonstrate that the metal could be as strong as stone while being lighter.
  • Eiffel also created the internal frame for the Statue of Liberty.
  • Construction of the Eiffel Tower cost 7,799,401.31 French gold francs in 1889, or about $1.5 million.
  • The Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet (324 meters) tall, including the antenna at the top. Without the antenna, it is 984 feet (300 m).
  • It was the world's tallest structure until the Chrysler Building was built in New York in 1930.
  • The tower was built to sway slightly in the wind, but the sun affects the tower more. As the sun-facing side of the tower heats up, the top moves as much as 7 inches (18 centimeters) away from the sun.
  • The sun also causes the tower to grow about 6 inches.
  • The Eiffel Tower weighs 10,000 tons.
  • There are 5 billion lights on the Eiffel Tower.
  • The French have a nickname for the tower: La Dame de Fer, "the Iron Lady."
  • The first platform is 190 feet above the ground; the second platform is 376 feet, and the third platform is almost 900 feet up.
  • The Eiffel Tower has 108 stories, with 1,710 steps. However, visitors can only climb stairs to the first platform. There are two elevators.
  • One elevator travels a total distance of 64,001 miles (103,000 kilometers) a year.

"Eiffel Tower", by Georges Seurat, 1889. One of my favourites, the tower in winter being built.

For his viewpoint, Hawkins set up his easel on the esplanade of the former Trocadero Palace, built for the 1878 Universal Exhibition. The foreground is taken up by a rear view of a bronze statue by Falguière symbolising Asia. This sculpture can still be seen today on the forecourt of the Musée d'Orsay, alongside the other allegories of continents that adorned the Trocadero Palace esplanade until its destruction in 1937. The Eiffel Tower occupies the right hand corner of the painting. Its feet are cropped, as are the upper levels. Blue sky and an urban landscape (from the embankments of the Seine to the buildings of the Ecole Militaire), form the background of this work. The unusual framing makes it almost photographic in style.

The Argenteuil Bridge and the Seine, Gustave Caillebotte, 1883

A Suburban Railway Station, Georges D'Espagnat, 1897

This one really caught my eye, Jean Beraud’s The Place de l’Europe – the pop of bright red is so gorgeous that it completely distracts from the overall grey dullness that would have become the new reality of life with factories.

The image shows pedestrians in the Place de l'Europe in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The plaza is a large bridge joining six avenues, each named for a European capital, over the railroad yards at Gare Saint-Lazare. The view is from the rue de Vienne, looking towards the center of the plaza. One of the bridge's trusses is very prominent, visible in half of the image.

Three individuals are seen in the foreground: a couple walking toward the observer, and a working-class man peering off the bridge toward the train station. A dog walks away from the observer, and other individuals appear in the mid-background. The man of the couple is a flâneur, an upper-class street observer. He is strolling with a woman dressed in black. She has often been interpreted to be a prostitute, according to contemporary social norms regarding women in public, especially in the area of the train station. Alternatively, the man has been thought to be Caillebotte himself, and the woman to be Caillebotte's companion, Anne-Marie Hagen. The flâneur is looking past his companion in the direction of the other man. Feminist art historian Norma Broude has suggested that Caillebotte, a lifelong bachelor, is signalling his own homosexuality with this gaze. In this reading, Caillebotte is an upper-class man cruising for a lower-class male prostitute in this unsavory neighborhood of Paris. However, Caillebotte's sexual orientation is not definitively known.

Passing through a short hallway, we moved into a gallery that focuses on the bodies and the people that make the new life of advancement and luxury possible: the factory workers.

A ragpicker in Paris, ca, 1899 - 1901. Ragpicker, or chiffonnier, is a term for someone who makes a living by rummaging through refuse in the streets to collect material for salvage.

Degas depicts his uncle Michel Musson's cotton brokerage business (which several years later went bankrupt in an economic crash, according to Michael McMahon of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when the firm was swamped by the postwar growth of the much larger Cotton Exchange). In the painting, Musson is seen examining raw cotton for its quality while Degas' brother Rene reads The Daily Picayune. Another brother, Achille, rests against a window wall at left while others, including Musson's partners, go about their business.

Here the focus is on women in the labour force in this section. It wasn’t only men and factory workers who brought this new modern life to France, but women who worked as caregivers to children, masseurs, and housekeepers in various capacities. Mary Cassatt is an Impressionist who is often forgotten, but her brushwork is stunning. In Children in a Garden (The Nurse), you feel as though you know exactly what the adorable features of the small crouching child look like.

Women at work provided inspiration for Degas. In addition to ballet dancers and cabaret singers, he also painted milliners and dressmakers, laundresses and ironers—such as the young woman here. Writer Edmond de Goncourt described a visit to Degas' studio when the artist showed him "washerwomen and still more washerwomen...." Degas was interested in their movements and postures, the patterns and rhythms of their work. Degas, de Goncourt continued, had gone about "speaking their language, explaining to us technically the downward pressing and circular strokes of the iron, etc...."

Laundresses also appeared as characters in newly popular realistic novels, which detailed the difficult lives of these women. They worked long, hot hours for low wages, and because they wore loose clothing and made deliveries to men's apartments, their morals were often questioned. Degas, however, seems not to have been interested in their social situation so much as in their characteristic gestures—in the line of his ironer's body as she leans into her work, in the soft curtain of color provided by the garments that hang around her, in the crisp shirt folded on the table.

This painting was executed while Pissarro lived near Pontoise, north-west of Paris. During the 1880s he became interested in painting rural market scenes, several of which were based on the markets at Pontoise and its neighbouring villages. Such subjects allowed Pissarro to combine the study of the human figure with depictions of outdoor scenes of everyday rural life. Although he wrote to his son Lucien that he wished the painting to have a 'certain naive freshness', hence the light and informal brushstrokes, the central figure of the 'charcutière' was painted from the model and the pose carefully studied.

And exit through the gift shop!

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