Impressionism and Post-Impressionism are at the heart of the Ruzhnikov collection, representing the crossroads between classical and modern approaches that is a common feature of the work gathered together by Andre Ruzhnikov.
Encompassing a wide variety of idiosyncratic styles, Post-Impressionism is characterised not by a single, unified aesthetic but rather by the emphasis placed by its practitioners on the incorporation of emotional, structural and symbolic elements into painting. Thus landscapes, still lifes and portraits are invested with an intensity of colour, line and form which derives less from the objective reality of the subject than from the artist’s own subjective experience of it.
In Gustave Loiseau’s paintings of the riverbank at dusk, to take one example, the precise shade of blue employed is as much an indicator of the artist’s mood as an attempt to impersonate water and sky. The French coast, in the canvases of Henry Moret and the Pont Aven school, becomes a scene of dazzling planes and vivid colours which bear little relationship to any photograph of the scene. The picture must, these artists insist, be faithful to the deeper experience of the artist as much as the information provided to his eyes.
The term derives from the celebrated exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists, curated by the British art critic Roger Fry at the Grafton Galleries, London in 1910 (by which time its most fêted practitioners were already dead). The show, famously described by Virginia Woolf as marking the moment when ‘human character changed’, introduced a British audience to the work of a generation of painters who had taken art into radical new territories. Ridiculed by many at the time (Fry was accused of having lost his mind), those artists are now universally recognised as the founding fathers of modern art. Without the Post-Impressionists, it’s impossible to imagine Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, Colour Field painting or almost any of the other schools of painting to have emerged in its wake.
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