Review Round Up: After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art, National Gallery

We take a closer look at what is being said about the latest exhibition on display at the National Gallery.

Paul Cézanne ,Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), about 1894 – 1905 
© National Gallery, London

The Guardian: **** “Cézanne initiated that. The biggest shock of the show is how much more serious he is than its other two supposed heroes, Van Gogh and Gauguin. Yes, that’s right – better than Van Gogh. That is the clear conclusion of a display of five works by each, facing each other. Vincent’s paintings are touching, intimate, yet traditional compared with Cézanne’s dismantling of art and nature. Gauguin meanwhile is brittle and strident, his art always trying too hard to be “mysterieux”.”

Evening Standard: ***** “The rooms in the show follow roughly a linear progression but not quite; there are places where you can go in either direction. And so it is with the art: you get the sense of umpteen possibilities as well as the shifting of gravity away from Paris.”

iNews: **** “Inventive and unconventional figures like Ensor highlight the shortcomings of a linear view of art history in which one development flows on to the next like so many pearls on a necklace. For all its lusciousness, this feels a tremendously old-fashioned exhibition. Its basic structure conforms to the diagram famously created by Alfred H Barr, the founding director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1936. Barr drew a neat progression from Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Seurat, through Fauvism (the wild colour play of Matisse and Derain), Expressionism (Munch, and the German group known as Die Brücke), and De Stijl (Mondrian and co) culminating in (to Barr’s mind) the ultimate expression of Modernism – abstract art.”

Culture Whisper: **** “The exhibition does spread its wings wider than the usual suspects to include female modernists, and the sculpture of two lovers by Käthe Kollwitz is an excellent work that feels like a modernist equivalent of Rodin’s The Kiss. And Spanish painter Isidre Nonell, a new find for us, has a deeply moving painting of two emaciated figures huddled together.”

London Visitors: “This fascinating exhibition provides plenty of insights into a particular period of time when artists paid homage to the past but were interested to create new visual approaches to their art. It is no coincidence that this was part of a wider cultural change in which many areas of the world were undergoing considerable social change due to industrialisation. Technological advances were creating a new world and the art world was not immune from its influence. The modern world seemed full of possibilities compared with the past.”

Time Out: **** “But, goddamn it, it’s beautiful. You want to be cynical, but then you walk in and see Cezanne’s mountain, Van Gogh’s snowfield, Signac’s shimmering pine and Gauguin’s tumbling sea and you get all tongue-tied like you’ve just bumped into your crush who is way, way, way out of your league. You just fall in love despite your cynicism, despite yourself.”

The Independent: **** “The National Gallery’s show may present a well-known story as though it’s a new discovery, but many paintings are worth the price of admission.”

The Telegraph: *** “The National Gallery’s whizz through innovations in avant-garde European art after 1886 has amazing moments but is also peculiarly piecemeal.”

The exhibition is on display until the 13th August.

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