he exhibition opens with a strong section dedicated to rural and urban landscapes by the “father of impressionism”, Camille Pissarro. A crucial figure for the birth and rise of the “nouvelle peinture”, he was the oldest member and point of reference for the group; the “humble and colossal Pissarro”, as Cézanne defined him. It is he who opens the exhibition with some splendid views of the Seine and countryside around Pariso, opening the way for the enchanting en plein air visions of the great impressionist period. The protagonists are the landscapes, rivers and cliffs of France, but also the areas he frequented in modern Paris itself, as in the intense Boulevard Montmartre: Spring, 1897. Here is a true and new, overwhelming feeling for nature, no longer imitated on canvas but lived in person by the artists. Such as Alfred Sisley, a solitary painter born in Paris of English parents, who explored the pleasant banks of the Loing near Saint-Mammès, leaving a great manifestation of his “water painting”.
These are the years of the rise of impressionism, a new way of seeing and of painting, celebrated by the famous exhibition of April 1874 at the studio of the Parisian photographer, Nadar. The research of the group broadened to include new exponents: first of these was Edgar Degas, present in the exhibition with some important sculpture, and a fine draughtsman with a rapid, responsive touch. These were also the years of Pierre Auguste Renoir, celebrated with a section dedicated to him. Following his work of the 1870s, Renoir returned home from a journey to Italy and added to what he had learned from Ingres in terms of colour by introducing the influence of Raphael, Titian and the masters of 17th-century Bolognese art. A splendid example of this mature phase is Portrait of Gabrielle of 1906, in which the artist intensely expresses his vivid love for grace and the female form.
The section on impressionism closes – although without a clear break, in witness of a continuous flow in art – with the masterpieces of Monet.