Impressionism: The conception and the breakthrough


Revolutionary at conception and legendary to this day, Impressionism is a timeless art movement. The Century of Light exhibition at National Gallery of Singapore highlights the best works from the period in "Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d'Orsay

Impressionism is an art movement that was started in the Europe in the 19th century. The name derived from Claude Monet’s artwork “Impression, soleil levant” (Impression, sunrise). Tapping onto modernisation at the time, Impressionism stood out for its signature every-day life scenes and landscape sceneries.

Thanks to the development of the French railway system, it became easier for artists to travel from Paris to the seaside and countryside to unleash their creativity onto canvases. In painting what became the masterpieces we see today, Impressionist artists started with picking a spot and portraying the outdoors as they saw it.

“Even people were joking that Monet was freezing outside just to finish ‘La Pie’, one of his 140 paintings of snow/winter setting,” shares Paul Perrin, curator from Musée d’Orsay during a press gallery tour.

Impressionism is considered revolutionary as it broke the established conventions of European paintings. It proposed new approaches in colour, composition, and subject matter. Its breakthrough technique of loose and short brush strokes gained the attention of critics, including Louis Leroy. He expressed that Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise” was an unfinished work.

Despite the negative sentiment, this art movement was a stepping stone to the current art world. National Gallery Singapore brought an array of curated Impressionism works directly from Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and is hosting the first Impressionism exhibition in Southeast Asia.

Over 60 masterpieces are divided into five sequences according to its colour schemes, by Musée d’Orsay curators Marine Kisiel and Paul Perrin. The first sequence is the pink room, which houses more somber paintings. In contrast, the white-themed room displayed paintings that were created with the interplay of light and shade.

The next room is entitled ‘Of Greens and Blues’, exhibiting paintings that were created when the artists travelled to the borders of Paris and further to the countryside. The collection includes paintings by Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Camille Pissaro, Lucien Pissaro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Alfred Sisley and Gustave Caillebotte.

The fourth room has an octagonal plan that showcases “From Eugene Delacroix to the Neo-Impressionism: Colour and Science.” Here we can see works from the final Impressionism exhibition in 1886 with works by Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. The concept of the paintings in this room is based on the division of primary colours to create optical mixtures.

The final room is called “Pink and Purple: Seeking Ideal Harmonies”. Despite of the colour palette, in this section we can see great examples of dotted technique paintings.

The exhibition is open for public until 11 March 2018, with an array of gallery activities including tours, workshops, talks, lectures and dialogues. It is a family-friendly exhibition, with Art Explorers program for children aged five and above, as well as Tween Workshops for teenagers between the ages of 11 and 16 years old.


Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay is a part of Century of Light, which features two exhibitions on 19th century art. Together with "Between Worlds", the show displays painting styles and art movements that emerged in Europe during this era, which has proven to be an influential factor to the development of art in Southeast Asia and around the world.

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Barbara Hahijary
Barbara earned her bachelor's degree in architecture from the Interior Architecture Program of the University of Indonesia in 2013. Historical or heritage buildings, as well as utilitarian design, fascinates her as it is the interaction between people and architecture that remains her favourite topic to explore. Besides architecture, her interests include design, handcrafts, literature and social issues.

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