Snowy Landscapes

By Rathbore, Eliza E. | Southwest Art, March 1999 | Go to article overview
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Snowy Landscapes


Rathbore, Eliza E., Southwest Art


IMPRESSIONISTS IN WINTER ON VIEW IN SAN FRANCISCO

This essay by curator Eliza E. Rathbone is excerpted from the catalog accompanying Impressionists in Winter: Effets de Neige. The exhibit is sponsored by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and is on view through May 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The show then moves to the Brooklyn Museum of Art in Brooklyn, NY, from May 27-August 29. The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, organized the exhibition.

Impressionists in Winter: Effets de Neige presents the first thorough investigation of the subject of Impressionist winter landscapes. While such a thematic approach might seem a superficial one, the subject of this exhibition goes to the heart of one of the central issues of Impressionism: a dedication to painting specific effects of weather and light that is unprecedented in the history of art. The subject of winter-clearly the most inhospitable season for pleinair painting-provides some of the most exceptional and most spellbindingly beautiful paintings in Impressionism.

Inspired by Alfred Sisley's SNOW AT LOUVECIENNES [1874] in The Phillips Collection, this exhibition of 63 works presents an opportunity to consider the subject of snow in Impressionist painting in an unprecedented way. While anyone might have come across one or several of these exceptional works in various museums in this country or abroad, it comes as a surprise to most to learn that the Impressionists painted hundreds of paintings of snow, or effets de neige, as they came to be called. Three artists especially were drawn to paint them: Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Camille Pissarro. Their shared fascination led all three to repeatedly seek out opportunities to paint landscapes in snow. Yet each brought to the subject a highly individual response that we find reflected in the paintings assembled here.

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