Beyond Borders, Paris Rings In 150 Years of Impressionism

Musée D’Orsay’s landmark exhibition, “Paris 1874: Inventing Impressionism,” opened to great anticipation earlier this spring and will travel to the National Gallery of Art in the fall. It’s just one example of how the international market is embracing the movement’s sesquicentennial—in ways that may be less-than-obvious to anyone unaccustomed to scrutinizing its interconnectedness.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) Impression, Soleil Levant, 1872 Paris, Musée Marmottan Monet.

Stateside art enthusiasts will recall this past September’s blockbuster “Manet/Degas” show at the Met, which was organized together with Musées d’Orsay and de l’Orangerie. It examined the title artists’ work in the context of their turbulent friendship and rivalry: born just two years apart in Paris, they were polar opposites right down to Edgar Degas’ pivotal role in organizing the 1874 exhibition that would go on to create the Impressionist movement—which Musée d’Orsay has faithfully recreated on Paris’s Left Bank with its current show “Paris 1874.” (Edouard Manet, on the other hand, sought the approval of the École des Beaux-Arts, whose establishment principals Degas, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, and Claude Monet set out to subvert).

Monet is, of course, widely considered to be the godfather of the Impressionist movement for his leadership of the artists whose ingenuity was immortalized in that daring “Première Exposition.” A visit to the artist’s Water Lilies galleries at the Musée de l’Orangerie is a must for any 20th-century art buff. Those making a pilgrimage to the City of Light would do well to note that Le Meurice, the grand dame of Paris’s palace hotels and a favorite of Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, is toasting Impressionism’s 150th anniversary with art historian-hosted private walking tours of the landmarks immortalized in Monet’s oeuvre.

Musée de l'Orangerie; Credit: Le Meurice.

As anyone fortuitous enough to have been in Paris this spring well knows, the 2024 Summer Olympic Games are already wreaking havoc on public access to the jardin; but that’s no matter for the bonafide Les Clefs d’Or concierges of Le Meurice, who can help keep your tour on track. In addition to a primer on the artist’s favorite vantage points and subjects—many of them hiding in plain sight outside—the tour culminates in a visit to l’Orangerie, complete with skip-the-line privileges. These editors can vouch for making a real occasion of such a trip and taking in clear sightlines of the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, and four of Paris’s major museums from one of the hotel’s Prestige suites, which just so happen to overlook a favorite Monet muse: the Jardin des Tuileries.

Impressionism affords viewers an undeniable degree of escapism, something “Manet/Degas” notably offered to galleries packed with world-weary visitors. Whether at Musée d’Orsay or the National Gallery, visitors will find that too in “Paris 1874”: “The country wanted to forget defeat and civil war, and these themes were absent from the Impressionists’ work,” co-curator Sylvie Patry recently told the Guardian.

Camille Pissarro, Orchard in Bloom, Louveciennes, 1872, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Collection, National Gallery of Art.

It’s fitting, then, that beginning in March and set to run through May, Sotheby’s unveiled a lineup of Impressionism programming across four key markets: London, Paris, New York, and Hong Kong. Highlights span art talks led by several descendants of the movement’s key artists like Charlotte Hellman Cachin and Joachim Pissarro. And, if the impulse strikes, those in the market for a Monet, Manet, Pissarro, or Renoir can try their hand at acquiring one from several 20th-century lots going live tomorrow.

All Stories