Beginning May 22, San Francisco’s de Young Museum will show The Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musee d’Orsay, an exquisite collection of impressionist works, from Manet’s The Fife Player to Renoir’s The Swing. The collection compares impressionism to a broader spectrum of art in the 1870s, and will be followed by a post-impressionism exhibit in the fall with pieces by Van Gogh, Cézanne, and more.
San Francisco may not be all that close to home, but we promise: For impressionism fans, it’s close enough. The last time Seattle got this close to 100 French impressionist originals was . . . never. You can make it a Memorial Day weekend getaway for about $350 round trip. Yes, it’s steep, but do you know how much it costs to fly to Paris right now? A month’s rent.
Margaret Bullock, curator of the Tacoma Art Museum’s Movement of Impressionism: Europe, America, and the Northwest exhibit, on view until October 10, is excited about the de Young’s exhibit. “A loan like this is rare because insurance is so expensive," Bullock says. These artworks are essentially national treasures, she adds, and draw a lot of tourism.
And the lineup at the de Young will not disappoint. Bullock ticked off the pieces that looked the most interesting, as if listing her favorite musicians at this year’s Sasquatch: The Race Horses Before the Stands by Degas, anything by Pissarro, L’Estaque by Cézanne, and The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte.
But before you go off to San Francisco, prep yourself by visiting TAC’s exhibit. It follows the manifest destiny of impressionism—from its epicenter in France, to the Netherlands, to America, and finally, to the Northwest, where a band of urban realists dubbed themselves The Eight. One of this merry band, William Glackens, adored Renoir (who doesn’t?) and his painting Natalie in a Blue Skirt alludes to a later Renoir style, when his color gets sharper and stronger and the forms are more rounded.
How do you know? Just compare it to the actual Renoirs on display at TAC. This exhibit is nothing to scoff at, also boasting pieces by masters Pissarro and Degas, including two Degas sculptures, both of ballet dancers, and a silk fan painted with ballet dancers. “The collection is a tool kit," Bullock says, “a way of thinking about light and subject and how impressionism took a variety of forms.”