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Need-To-Inform. France celebrates 150 years since the birth of Impressionism in museums… and in auction rooms

France celebrates 150 years since the birth of Impressionism in museums… and in auction rooms


         Impressionism was born 150 years ago – on 15 April 1874 to be precise – when a group of artists rebelled against the standards of the official Salon. Thirty-one artists, including Monet, Renoir, Degas, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley and Cézanne, gathered at 35, boulevard des Capucines, in the former studios of photographer Nadar. Together, they presented more than 150 revolutionary paintings that broke completely with the artistic conventions of their time. The term Impressionism, which would kick off the avant-garde movements, was inspired by Claude Monet’s painting, Impression, Soleil Levant, which art critic Louis Leroy mocked. In the April 25, 1874 edition of the satirical newspaper, ‘Charivari’, he wrote: “Impression! Impression, I knew it. I said to myself since I’m impressed, there must be some sort of impression in there somewhere.

       This spring 2024, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of this artistic revolution, the Musée d’Orsay, holder of the world’s largest collection of Impressionist works, is lending one hundred and seventy-eight of its masterpieces to thirty-four partner institutions across France, spread across thirteen regions. Among Monet’s best works, Rouen Cathedral will go to Le Havre, La Pie to Clermont-Ferrand, Déjeuner sur l’herbe to Besançon. Renoir’s La Liseuse will go to Albi; Degas’ La Petite danseuse de 14 ans to La Piscine de Roubaix, Caillebotte’s La Partie de bateau to Nantes, and Van Gogh’s La Nuit étoilée will return to Arles where it was originally painted.

       At the Musée d’Orsay, a major exhibition entitled Paris 1874. Inventing Impressionism will also be offered to the public. This exhibition, which runs until July 14, 2024, traces the origins of the movement by bringing together a selection of works that were presented during the first Impressionist exhibition. These works are juxtaposed with paintings and sculptures exhibited during the official Salon of 1874, thus offering a complete and enlightening vision of the artistic revolution that took place at that moment in time.

     As the curator of the exhibition, Sylvie Patry, puts it: “The Impressionists wanted to paint the world as it is, in the midst of change. In the second half of the 19th century, it was industry, big cities, globalization, and they believed that painting should reflect the modern world.”

      The Musée d’Orsay is also offering a unique immersive experience using virtual reality, entitled An Evening with the Impressionists. Paris 1874. The fruit of two years of work, this fascinating experience lasting nearly 45 minutes immerses visitors into the heart of the inaugural evening of the first Impressionist exhibition. After an introduction to 1870s Paris, visitors are transported to Nadar’s studio to meet iconic artists like as Renoir, Monet, Degas, Pissarro, Cézanne and Morisot, and discover their works during that historic evening of 15 April 1874 (among other notable moments).

The Impressionist sale at Christie’s Paris

     On Tuesday April 9, in a sale marking the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, Christie’s in Paris auctioned 23 emblematic artworks from this movement. The works were carefully selected for their rarity, their freshness on the market and the quality of their provenance, and   although the sale was small, it offered very high quality works.

     The centerpiece was André DERAIN’s Matisse et Terrus, 1905, a rare example of Fauvist figures dating from 1905 and never before offered on the market. Nearly one hundred and twenty years after its creation, this work was recently rediscovered by the heirs of its first owner, Étienne Terrus, to whom Derain had probably offered his painting. After having adorned the Terrus home in Elne, near Collioure, for sixty years, the work had been carefully preserved in a chest, thus presenting an exceptional state of conservation. The painting exceeded its high estimate, fetching $3.4 million.

    The second highest price was obtained by a Françoise GILOT painting, Concert on the Green (Le Concert Champètre) 1953, which sold for $1.4 million, well above its high estimate of $325,600. This is a new auction record for this artist whose work had long been eclipsed by that of Picasso.

    Two paintings by Alfred SISLEY (1839-1899), one of the founders of Impressionism, were among the star lots of this sale. The one representing Les Coteaux de La Celle, après Saint- Mammès  (1884) came from a prestigious Swiss collection established in the 1960s that has remained unexhibited until now. The other, entitled Le Pont de Moret-sur-Loing, temps de Crue, (1889), has a twin painting exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay. Although it sold within its estimate range at $738,00, this painting could have fetched a much higher price given its quality, size and condition (Christie’s hoped it would sell for up to a million dollars).

    In total, the Impressionist artworks in this sale generated $13.4 million, and despite the failure of a painting by Le Corbusier (estimated between $300,000 and $500,000), the sale was generally successful… without excess.

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