PREVIEW: Gauguin and the Impressionists, Royal Academy of Arts

The Royal Academy’s exhibition will brig together sixty pieces of art from the collection of wealthy Danish couple Wilhelm and Henny Hansen .

Paul Gauguin, Portrait of a Young Woman, Vaïte (Jeanne) Goupil, 1896 Oil on canvas, 75 x 65 cm © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.

On display from the 29th March, Gauguin and the Impressionists will present works from the Ordrupgaard Collection in Denmark – focusing on many Impressionist works by artists including Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. 

The exhibition will also feature precursors of Impressionism such as Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Jules Dupré and Charles-François Daubigny, and a number of Post-Impressionist works including an exceptional group of eight paintings by Paul Gauguin. Many of the works in the collection have never been seen in the UK before.

The collection the works are from was created by wealthy Danish couple Wilhelm and Henny Hansen. Wilhelm Hansen was an insurance magnate who created a collection of French paintings between 1916 and the late 1920s. The First World War, during which Denmark remained neutral, gave Hansen the opportunity to buy important works from the most prestigious Parisian dealers including Paul Durand-Ruel and the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. Hansen was already a keen collector of Danish nineteenth-century painting but decided to acquire the best French painting from ‘Corot to Cézanne’, enlisting the help of French art critic and early champion of Impressionism Théodore Duret. All of the works collected by the couple were displayed at Ordrupgaard, their house just outside Copenhagen, which they opened to the public in 1918. 

This exhibition will begin with Painting en Plein Air featuring landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes mostly painted in and around Paris, the Normandy coast and London. Meanwhile, Collecting French Masters will feature works by predecessors of Impressionism. Advised by Duret, Hansen acquired paintings by important earlier nineteenth-century painters including Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Eugène Delacroix, Corot and Courbet. This gallery will partially reproduce one of Hansen’s original hangs based on archival photographs. 

The display will then continue with Impressionist Women, featuring portraits of women painted by Renoir and Degas as well as Morisot and Eva Gonzalès. It will finish with Gauguin and Post-Impressionism – highlighting the work of artists who, at the turn of the century, reacted against Impressionism: Gauguin, Cézanne and Matisse.

Gauguin and the Impressionists will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts from the 29th March until the 14th June.

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