The Impressionists in the National Museum in Belgrade complete the story of this museum. In my previous posts, I wrote about the Serbian medieval art, Serbian 19th century painting and also about the international collection that you can see there. Surely, those are truly magnificent works of art.
But, the Impressionists collection is also special and unique. The museum in Belgrade is the only place where you can see these masterpieces, by some of the most famous painters.
THE IMPRESSIONISTS IN THE MUSEUM
The painters who predominantly lived in Montmartre and in 1874 became know as the Impressionists, carried out the first big revolution in the art of the modern age. The traditional painting depicted a moment that compressed within itself the meaning of complete duration. However, the Impressionists depicted single moments which were the fruit of the artist’s personal perception.
They chose motifs from nature for such visual interpretation, in line with naturalistic ideas. They examined the effects of sunlight during various parts of the day. Thus, the artist solely focused his interest on matter and colour. That’s why the Impressionism ties itself to the colouristic concept of painting.
The Impressionists found content for their paintings in everyday life, in events, places and people of the modern age: the city, the suburbs, parks, cafes and picnic spots.
LATER STAGE IMPRESSIONISM
The paintings in the the museum mostly belong to the later stage of Impressionism. Nevertheless, they maintain the Impressionist pattern reflected in personal observation of nature. Thus, Claude Monet celebrated in his own way the landscapes of modern life. Additionally, Camille Pissarro’s brilliant brushstrokes reshaped Hausmann’s dehumanised Parisian boulevards. Finally, Pierre-Auguste Renoir transformed poor backyards of Montmartre into gardens of love.
PISSARO’S EFFECTS OF THE SUN
Pissarro began working on urban themes in 1887, when he booked a room at the Grand Hotel du Louvre, with a view of the Avenue de l’Opera and the corner of the Place du Palais Royal. He created 15 paintings there, divided into two groups.
The painting below belongs to the first group. It depicts a section of the Rue Saint-Honoré and the Avenue de l’Opera in its entirety. The painting conveys the daytime atmosphere, hence its subtitle “The Effect of the Sun”.
MONET’S “CATHEDRAL IN PINK”
“Cathedral in Pink” or “Rouen Cathedral” is part of the eponymous series painted in 1892 and 1893. The painting depicts the western facade of the church, viewed from a window of the flat at 23 Cathedral Square. It was probably created in February or March 1892. The Rouen Cathedral series, which numbers 30 paintings, is one of the most important in Impressionism. This unique motif was used to examine the effects of the changing light during different times of the day.
Edgar Degas and Mary Cassat had a deep and sincere friendship. Their connection was in a dedication to drawing and also in exploring different graphic techniques.
Edgar Degas focused on the particular refuges of modern city life, public places, cafes, the opera stage, but also on brothels. He didn’t consider himself and Impressionist, but rather a Realist and Naturalist.
Unlike his paintings, whose actors were trapped in the cruel circumstances of those times, Mary Cassat depicted women and children in an idealised home environment.
GAUGUIN’S TAHITIAN WOMEN
In 1895, Gauguin finally returned to Tahiti. After several big personal tragedies and the loss of his beloved daughter Aline, in poor health and ultimately disillusioned with the western civilisation, in 1897 he started working on a famous painting called “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?”
The “Tahitian Woman”, the painting below, was also one of the preparatory paintings for that work. Iconographically, it belongs to themes from the Maori mythology, that speaks of mysterious meanings of nature.
THE INTERNATIONAL FROM MONTPARNASSE
The artists in Paris and other centres of Europe included the experimental procedure as the chief principle of work. Suzanne Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo were active painters of Montmatre, the same as the artists who had come to Paris from different parts of Europe. Drawn in by the modernist metropolis, they brought with them their particular cultural heritage from home.
They lived and worked in and around Montparnasse, in a bohemian atmosphere and exchange of ideas. They moved within the range of Fauvism, Cubism and Symbolism.
Although they were not connected by a single style, but rather by belonging to the same social stratum, their output was largely characterised by a sort of moderate Expressionism.
PICASSO’S ANALYTICAL CUBISM
Picasso did this painting in summer of 1909, during his stay in Horta de Ebro. It is one of the representative examples of Analytical Cubism. The model for the series of portraits executed in various techniques in drawings, paintings and sculptures, created between spring and winter of 1909, depicting a female bust or head, was Fernande Olivier. In these works Picasso endeavoured to consistently apply and to fully develop the Cubist principle of poly perspective.
PATHS OF THE AVANT-GARDE
In the Analytical Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque the object was reduced to geometric surfaces, composed according to the principle of simultaneity. Thus, this discovery was the main iconographic model on which the avant-garde painting was based and from which it developed.
The visual avant-garde between the two world wars and its poetics were built on opposition to the cultural tradition of Europe, established in civil society.
The avant-garde movements empowered the freedom of exploration.
Archipenko began working on Cubist sculpto-paintings in 1915, in Nice. These kind of works solved the problem of mass in space. They also solved the relations between internal movements and external surfaces. To that end, he used different materials, lighting effects and polychromy. Thus, he wanted to introduce radically new methods in sculpture. “Two Women”, a masterpiece of this type of work, combined materials and techniques from both, sculpting and painting.
Evidently, the principles of Analytical Cubism represented the cornerstone of Orphism, created in Paris in 1910. The founders of this movement, Robert Delaunay and Sonia Terk Delaunay, then expanded their expression towards pure abstraction, with emphasis on colourism.
In this and my previous posts, I’ve tried to present an insight into the National Museum in Belgrade.
It’s a precious museum, full of surprisingly beautiful artworks. I am glad that I took these photos, because I can look at these beautiful paintings again.
But, whenever I have the opportunity, I go back. Certainly, one visit is not enough to see everything properly and to remember.
I strongly recommend to everyone visiting Belgrade to make sure to visit this museum too.