Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Impressionists by the Sea" at the Royal Academy

The Regatta at Sainte-Adresse by Claude Monet, 1867.
Oil on canvas, 75.2 x 101.6cm.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of William Church Osborn, 1951 (51.30.4.)

The Impressionists by the Sea exhibition in the Sackler Galleries of the Royal Academy opened a month ago on 7th July and will finish on 30th September. It includes works by Courbet, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Caillebotte, Whistler, Gauguin, Cassett and many other less well known artists.

I prefer to visit exhibitions when they've got over the initial rush - so that I can actually see the paintings. Except I forgot it was August - which is major tourist month in London - and there were lots of people visiting yesterday afternoon! I hate to think what it's like at the weekend!

The exhibition website has:
The exhibition has six themes - but the RA website only has very limited reproduction of the images on show.
The son of a sea captain from Honfleur, the whole of his artistic life was essentially devoted to the ports, the beaches and the landscapes of the Normandy coast. He was much influenced by Isabey, drawing from him a sense of atmosphere and of wind-blown cloud, which he developed through greater effects of subtlety and nuance......We know Boudin best from his generally small, horizontal pictures of fashionably dressed tourists promenading on the beach. With the figures arranged in a frieze-like fashion, the eye moves across, picking out the different groups, the flash of colour of a brilliant dress, sometimes an isolated individual. There is, however, no anecdotal content. The socialising and opportunity for display are contained within the groupings, and the bathing and sea are generally relegated to the background.

You can see more about the pictures in the exhibition here in this slideshow provided by The Guardian Unlimited. For more informed comment than I can provide see the articles about the exhibition by

Overall I found it fascinating to see the themes which interested different painters and how they explored them - and to see the same place painted by different people. Some painters were interested in the changes at the seaside, some located themselves on the beach and painted people whether whether working or there for recreation and some just wanted to turn their back on the land, the buildings and the people and just get on with recording the water, the wind and the weather.

I was particularly struck by:
  • two stunning Whistler seascapes - which would not look out of place in any contemporary art gallery - but are not listed on the website and I can't find on-line. I'd have been impressed by these if they'd been downstairs in the Summer Exhibition.
  • the composition of a non marine painting by Monet Road at La CavĂ©e, Pourville. I'm not quote sure why but it made me think of childhood and long walks on country paths and the smell of heat on grass .
I was very disappointed with the quality of the colour reproduction in the exhibition catelogue and postcards and prints - and bought nothing as a result. I've never had that problem before with RA publications and I do hope that they improve their quality controls in future.

Over the road in Hatchards (of which more in another post) I found the catalogue for the Monet In Normandy exhibition which took place in the USA in 2006/7 organized by the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Looks like it was a sell-out and derservedly so having now seen the catelogue. This was the Cleveland Museum's website for the exhibition and these are the exhibition highlights. It looks like a number of paintings were common to both the Normandy exhibition and the Impressionists exhibition. There's a very distinct difference in quality of colour reproduction between the Monet in Normandy catalogue when compared to the RA catalogue - the former is definitely superior and will be appreciated by those for whom such things matter.

The Impressionists by the Sea exhibition is a tripartite effort by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, The Phillips Collection, Washington DC and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT

Finally - this is my quick 15 minute sketch of The Friends Room at the Roal Academy - also packed with people having cups of tea and a bite to eat. The room currently has new paintings by Mary Fedden hung around the walls. (All works have been sold)

Tea in the Friends' Room, Royal Academy of Arts
8" x 10", pen and sepia ink in Moleskine sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell



  1. Love The Friends Room sketch, it has the look of page from a treasured old sketchbook!

  2. Thank you Triecia - this Moleskine is halfway through on its way to becoming a treasured old sketchbook. I realised the other day that if I had to vacate my home fast that I'd be trying to hold two cats with hands full of sketchbooks.


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