One of the treats I received was visiting the Century of Light exhibition currently showcased at the National Gallery Singtel Exhibition. We had three curators from the Musee d’Orsay and National Gallery who did an excellent job leading us. Nonetheless, you may want to read about the highlights of the work from Straits Times before you go.
The magpie by Claude Monet and the interesting depiction of white.
Unlike artists in the past who paint in studios, spending hours perfecting the works, waiting for the paint to dry, and painting either religious symbols or important patrons, impressionists paint the changing landscape of France. Because they were outdoors, they paint very fast with quick strokes, often wet paint on wet paint.
What struck me was that they were artists as well as sociologists and scientists. Himself, who enjoys photography shared with me the influence of photography on understanding depiction of light source in photography
Advances in medical research and understanding how the (retina) eye works also influenced Monet who did not paint the snow as purely white. He painted it in the colours of the shadows his eye observed falling upon it – blues, yellows, purples, changing as the light changed. Blue was important in how Impressionists depicted shadows, such that a critic dubbed the trend “indigo-mania”.
Paul Signac and the neo-Impressionists, who came a generation after the Impressionists. He championed the scientific theory of colour, using complementing colours and “Pointillist” method of dots to form an image. Here, the blue of the water is set against complementary colour orange in the yacht and houses. Time to memorise your color wheel. Which my teacher advised years ago.
Also on display are artworks by many Impressionist artists such as Monet’s waterlily pond.
Do catch works “Between Worlds” featuring the works of Indonesian artist Raden Saleh (c.1811–1880) and Filipino artist Juan Luna (1857–1899), two leading painters from Southeast Asia who achieved wide acclaim in Europe. The exhibition draws from important collections around the world.
“The exhibition explores how Raden Saleh and Juan Luna developed their work living between two diverse cultures and societies; and how the European experiences of these extraordinary artists have shaped the art history of this region.”
Juan Luna’s depiction of Cleopatra.
I am most impressed with this piece of the average workers by Juan Luna during his stay in France. Juan Luna was also instrumental in the rising nationalism of the Philippines, not just as a colony of Spain, but as a equal state. The betrayal when Spain gave away Philippines as a colony to the US.
The colour of the walls purple against orange caught my eye. And that cute little door.
The Impressionists exhibition left me with some thoughts of artists as not just concerned with aesthetics. Many of them were interested in politics, lives of ordinary people, a different world order.
I cannot help recalling Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on the rejection of the Impressionist artists by the acclaimed critics of the day in his book “David and Goliath”.
National Gallery Singapore
1 St Andrew’s Rd, Singapore 178957