The Crocker Art Museum’s “Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism” is more than an exhibit of 38 paintings; it’s a lesson in art history.
The exhibition is one of three that make up the museum’s “Summer of Impressionism,” a story about the Impressionist movement and how it evolved from France to the U.S., as told through its showcased art. There are paintings by Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet, Camille Pissaro and some of their most notable American followers.
Visitors of "Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism" are greeted by Monet’s loose brushstrokes, those that form a cropped cottage overlooking the sea in “Rising Tide of Pourville, 1882.”
Surrounding “Rising Tide of Pourville” are paintings darker in color, full of rich greens and gray-blues, many of them pieces by Courbet.
Courbet’s “Isolated Rock, 1862” is one of the earliest works in the exhibit. It demonstrates the influence that en plein air or “in the open air” sketching techniques had on landscape pieces during the 1860’s. Many artists from the so-called French Barbizon school of painting, including Courbet, made quick sketches in oil while outdoors, sketches of landscapes that the artists would later bring back to their studios and complete.
The influence of plein air practices on French Impressionists can be seen in Monet’s unfinished work, “The Islets of Port-Villez.” The piece hangs on the far wall in the second room of the exhibit, surrounded by another Monet and two pieces in pastel colors.
“Early Spring Afternoon, Central Park,” by the American painter Willard Leroy Metcalf, is one of these pieces. The work is different, depicting a slightly more urban scene that includes New York’s skyline.
Many American painters during the 19th and 20th century were inspired by French artists and attended French art academies so that they could paint U.S. scenes using Impressionist techniques.
“Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism” has traveled from the Brooklyn Museum and will be on display until September 18. The Crocker is the exhibit’s only West coast stop. Hopefully, this gives the impression that one should go and see it!