Making an Impression

The Kimbell Art Museum is showing The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark through June 17.

by Brennen Anderson

The museum is the only U.S. venue for the first-ever international touring exhibition of French Impressionist masterpieces from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.
Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, married Francine Clary in 1919 and together they created one of the finest collections of paintings, sculptures and drawings formed in the early 20th century. The art was exhibited in their houses in Paris and New York with French Impressionists at the heart of their collection. The couple founded the Clark Art Institute in 1955 to display their collection.
With 72 paintings, the Kimbell Museum’s exhibit of The Age of Impressionism: Great French Paintings from the Clark will have 21 paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, six by Claude Monet, seven by Camille Pissarro, four by Alfred Sisley, three by Edgar Degas, two by Edouard Manet and two by Berthe Morisot.
Visitors will be able to recognize many of the pieces because there are many reproductions of the works. There are also works of some of the leading French artists of the period, who worked in alternative style.
From the unconventional landscape styles of Camille Corot and Théodore Rousseau, to the figure painters William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Jacques-Joseph Tissot, as well as the post-Impressionist painters Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Gauguin, the exhibit features a range of talent from the Age of Impressionism.
Monet’s Tulip Fields at Sassenheim, Near Leiden represent his mastery effects of natural light, while Renoir’s works demonstrate the evolution and range of his pieces from the 1870s to the 1890s with the sensuous work of Girl with a Fan and Sleeping Girl. The world renowned collection shows Gérôme’s high level for technical “finish” at the beginning of the exhibit with Fellah Women Drawing Water, while also demonstrating the Clarks’ appreciation for all types of Impressionist paintings. A 240-page catalogue accompanies The Age of Impressionism and features essays by James A. Ganz and Richard R. Brettell. It can be purchased in the Museum Shop ($29.95 for softcover and $45 for hardcover).
Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum, says that “because many of the Impressionists painted outdoors, their works will sing out especially vibrantly in the natural light of Louis Khan’s renowned gallery spaces. Visitors to the Museum are in for a stunning encounter with beautiful art enhanced by iconic architecture.”
The collection is touring for three years (through 2014), while the museum in Williamstown undergoes an architectural renovation. The tour includes Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and China and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The Kimbell Art Museum is open Tuesday-Thursday and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Fridays, noon-8 p.m. and Sundays, noon-5 p.m. For more information about the exhibit and for events related to the exhibition, visit impressionism.kimbellart.org.