In the years preceding and following the turn of the 20th century, European art underwent a radical transformation which, among other things, meant a break with the naturalist tradition that had been hegemonic since the Renaissance. This revolution, which arose in the wake of the innovations contributed by the Impressionist movement, had its epicenter in Paris but also received decisive impulses from other European cities: Vienna, Berlin, Brussels and Barcelona. Cities that “helped define many of the notions we have today of that exciting and revolutionary period that laid the foundations for art in the 20th and 21st centuries.” This is recognized, and thus explained, by the exhibition ‘After Impressionism. Inventing modern art’which from Saturday 25 to August 13 can be visited at the National Gallery of London.
The sample, one of the most important events of the season in the art gallery of the English capital, brings together 97 exceptional works made between 1886 and 1914, with the added bonus that many of them belong to private collections and are therefore rarely shown to the public. Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rodin, Matisse, Picasso, Klimt, Kandinsky and Mondrian are some of the artists present in this exhibition who, in the words of Gabriele Finaldidirector of the National Gallery, tells “a spectacular story & rdquor ;.
And in that story, Barcelona plays a leading role. Together with Brussels, Berlin and Vienna, the Catalan capital stands out as one of the European cities that, with its antenna fixed on the accelerated changes that were taking place in the Parisian artistic world, proved to have “a more consistent commitment to the avant-garde& rdquor; and they knew how to light “their own, and distinctive, manifestations of modernity& rdquor;. The art historian explains it mary anne stevenscurator of the exhibition, who emphasizes the importance that the tavern The Quatre Gats had when it came to bringing together and disseminating the “dissident visions & rdquor; of a collective of artists who, in many cases, had studied and worked in Paris.
The modernity of houses
In the room that the exhibition dedicates to Barcelona, works by Hermen Anglada Camarasa, Ramon Casas (‘Lautomòbil’, from 1900; “a true symbol of the idea of modernity & rdquor;, according to Stevens, which belongs to the collection of the Cercle del Liceu and which had never left Spain before), Santiago Rusiñol, Isidre Nonell, Pablo Gargallo. and three paintings that Pablo Picasso made in 1901, during his second visit to Paris, just after having been hanging out with the modernist core at Els Quatre Gats, the establishment where he had exhibited his work for the first time and for which he had designed the menu cover.
Two of Picasso’s works are painted in a double-sided painting and show that the artist from Malaga he moved much faster at that time than any of his contemporaries. on one side, ‘Woman in the box’, a chromatic festival in which Toulouse-Lautrec’s mark is still very present; in the other one, ‘absinthe drinker’which with its defined volumes and its atmosphere of sadness and loneliness announces the advent of the blue period.
Picasso reappears later in the exhibition, in the chapter dedicated to the new directions of European art in the 20th century. Only five years have passed but the painter from Malaga is already a radically different artist. In ‘Naked woman combing her hair’from 1906, color recedes and Picasso’s fascination with African carvings that gallery owner Joseph Brummer (whose portrait, painted by Henri Rousseau, is also part of the sample). Three years later, in ‘Woman with Pears’geometric shapes and abstract colors have taken over the canvas and announce the direction that the painter would take in the development of cubism, already fully established in the fractured portrait of ‘Wilhelm Uhde’1910.
With the deconstructivism of Picasso and Georges Braque and the first steps on the path of abstraction by Piet Mondrian and Vasily Kandinsky concludes a fascinating journey that begins with ‘The Large Bathers’, by Cézanne, and which reviews 25 years of European art through capital pieces, although not always sufficiently well-known. Among the most gratifying discoveries are works such as the surprising ‘The amazement of the Wouse Mask’ (1889), by the Belgian James Ensor; the touching ‘The death bed’ (1895), by Edvard Munch; the monumental ‘Dance’ (1906), by André Derain, and the wildly colorful ‘Young Finnish’ (1907), by Sonia Delaunay, one of the five women represented in the exhibition (she is accompanied by Camille Claudel, Broncia Koller-Pinell, Käthe Kollwitz and Paula Modersohn-Becker). Five women and 46 men. That the art of the ‘fin-de-siècle’ could be very bold and revolutionary but in matters of gender it was still indebted to its time.