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Intellect

Two new exhibits at BYU Museum of Art celebrate Impressionism

Two new exhibitions opening at the BYU Museum of Art in February will allow visitors to view innovative works of art created by a group of visionary artists who, by the end of the 19th century, were at the forefront of an aesthetic revolution.

An exhibition of French and American landscape paintings will allow viewers access to works by artists whose widely recognizable names are associated with the Barbizon School and the Impressionist movement.

In addition, a photography exhibition will feature the work of William B. Post who joined photographers, both in the United States and Europe, in the pursuit of what became known as the “pictorialist” style — a style which favored simple compositions, soft-focus effects and refined printmaking techniques.

  • Paths to Impressionism: French and American Landscape Paintings from the Worcester Art Museum. Conway A. Ashton & Carl E. Jackman Gallery, Feb. 16 through July 8, 2007.

    “Paths to Impressionism: French and American Landscape Paintings from the Worcester Art Museum” is a major exhibition tracing the changing traditions of the Barbizon and Impressionist movements as their popularity rose in France and influenced the art of America.

    The exhibition is comprised of 42 lush landscape paintings from the Worcester Art Museum’s collection and features paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, George Inness, Claude Monet, John Singer Sargent, Alfred Sisley and many others.

    “The paintings in this exhibition are easy to love,” said Museum of Art curator Paul Anderson. “Because landscape paintings like these have been so universally appreciated for more than a century, it is easy to forget how revolutionary and controversial they were in their own time.”

    Beginning in the 1840s and ‘50s, a group of young artists who had gathered around the little village of Barbizon, France, turned away from the carefully rendered aristocratic portraits and history paintings that dominated the art world. These artists sought to depict their surroundings with greater realism by painting outdoors and choosing subjects that included the lives of ordinary working people.

    By the 1860s their work began to attract international attention and followers. In the 1870s, a second generation of French innovators called Impressionists pushed the artistic revolution ahead with their focus on brilliant unblended colors, loosely applied brushwork and contemporary urban and industrial subjects. Although their work was initially ridiculed by some critics and academics, the dazzling effects that they achieved changed the world of painting.

    While the center of the artistic revolution was France, many of these innovative ideas found enthusiastic acceptance in the United States. Aspiring American artists crossed the Atlantic to study in French academies and to learn the techniques of the new masters.

    They returned home to blend the free brushstrokes and bright colors of French painting with an already well-established American landscape tradition to create a more conservative version of Impressionism.

    By 1915, this became the dominant style of the nation, even as it was challenged by a younger generation pursuing new visions of Modernism.

    “Paths to Impressionism: French and American Landscape Paintings from the Worcester Art Museum” will be on view in the Conway A. Ashton & Carl E. Jackman Gallery on the museum’s lower level.

    The exhibition is organized by the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Mass., and is guest-curated by Elizabeth Johns, renowned American art scholar, professor and fellow at the College of the Holy Cross.

    The BYU Museum of Art is the final venue of a national tour for this exhibition that included the Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, Pa., the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tenn., and the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, Fla.

    The BYU exhibition is sponsored in part locally by KUTV Channel 2 and the Newspaper Agency Corporation (Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune). Admission is free.

  • The Quiet Landscapes of William B. Post. Warren & Alice Jones and Paul & Betty Boshard Galleries, Feb. 3 to May 28, 2007.

    William B. Post photographed the picturesque rural landscape of Maine for more than two decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He meticulously crafted images of the natural world, celebrating its spiritual and aesthetic grandeur and earning himself widespread recognition as a leading photographic pioneer.

    “The Quiet Landscapes of William B. Post,” the first exhibition devoted to this photographer since his death in 1921, will feature 60 of his original platinum prints and place his work within the larger context of a photographic movement known as “pictorialism.”

    Practitioners of pictorial photography sought to create images of high aesthetic value, experimenting with the principles of other art movements, particularly French Barbizon painting and Impressionism. Post’s photographs of snow-covered fields, blooming gardens and delicate water lilies are among the finest works of pictorial landscape photography from the era.

    Post began taking photographs around 1885 to escape the pressures of work at a busy New York brokerage firm. Three years later his abilities with the camera and avid interest in the medium secured him membership in two of New York’s most prestigious camera clubs.

    In 1896, when the two groups combined, Post served as a founding member and trustee of the newly formed Camera Club of New York. His work won the respect and admiration of Alfred Stieglitz — one of America’s leading proponents and practitioners of artistic photography — and the two enjoyed a close association for several years. Post exhibited across America, Europe and India, and enjoyed a wide audience through publications in several photographic journals.

    “The Quiet Landscapes of William B. Post” is organized by The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and is being hosted at BYU as part of a national tour that includes museums in Iowa, Maine, Ohio and Washington.

    This exhibition is sponsored in part by Classical 89 KBYU-FM. Admission is free.

    Writer: Christopher Wilson

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