Monday, 5 October 2020

Elie Saab: A New Dawn Amid the Debris

A graceful, flowered dress with voluminous sleeves and a black and white waistband was a highlight of Elie Saab's new SS21 collection, photographed in the rugged hills of Mount Lebanon. See film below.

Elie Saab's designs for Spring/Summer 2021 were shot in the rugged, stony hills of Mount Lebanon for a short film, instead of being shown on a runway at this season's Paris Fashion Week. Although the couturier's atelier and home were badly damaged after an explosion in Beirut, he has created a beautiful, ready-to-wear collection Jeanne-Marie Cilento writes

Fluid, flowing gowns
that drape beautifully
are Saab's signature 

AMID the political and financial crises engulfing Lebanon and the explosion in Beirut earlier this year, fashion designer Elie Saab has tried to bring lightness and beauty to his new Spring 2021 collection. Due to Covid-19, most designers on the official Paris schedule, showed a video presentation instead of having a live runway show. 

The designer's short film shows models gamboling among the flinty hills near his country home in Mount Lebanon. The gossamer gowns and voluminous skirts float in the wind and yet there is also a sense of underlying disquiet. 

Both Elie Saab's home and his atelier in Beirut were damaged by the blast of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse, killing 200 people and injuring thousands more, in August. 

The explosion flattened neighborhoods and businesses already feeling the effects of Covid-19. Lebanon is having a second wave of infections plus escalating political and economic problems.

Even though Elie Saab's headquarters in the city were wrecked, he managed to get the atelier back and up and running within several weeks. He and his team created a couture collection and then the ready-to-wear range. He was also helped by his son and company chief executive officer, Elie Saab Jr. and his wife Christina Mourad. 

The designer wanted the film, created for this Paris Fashion Week in lieu of a catwalk show, to be a celebration of life, showing his lustrous clothes contrasted against the rugged hills. Called Hymne a la Vie (Ode to Life), the collection's sumptuousness was highlighted by Mount Lebanon's arid, mystical landscape that gave a great sense of freedom. 

Elie Saab's film shows models gamboling among the flinty hills of Mount Lebanon, gossamer gowns and voluminous skirts floating in the wind 

A long, flowing broderie anglaise
gown in sunny yello
Saab has used brilliant, vibrant colours to enliven the collection including buttery yellow, dark red, magenta pink, turquoise and emerald green. The designs were shown in clusters of different colours. The pinks were inspired by flowers, the rich greens by leaves, and the deep red represents blood and the loss of loved ones. The draped, pale turquoise gowns show the designer's ability to capture the glamour of Hollywood's heyday. 

Fluid evening dresses that drape beautifully on the body, like the one pictured above, are the designer's signature and why he is sought after for red carpet creations or for royal occasions. Kate Middleton wore an Elie Saab gown to Royal Ascot last year. The designer became well known in the United States after he became the first Lebanese designer to dress an Oscar winner, Halle Berry, in 2002. By 2010, Saab was dressing more than a 100 celebrities for different events and continues to be sought after for special occasions.  

One of the standouts of the new ready-to-wear collection is a full-sleeved, flowered dress with a black-and-white waistband that looks both elegant and comfortable (see main picture). A yellow, broderie anglaise gown with flared sleeves and a long, sweeping gathered skirt has the volume and ease of movement that would work equally for a garden party or music festival (see above). 

As a counterpoint to the vivid hues are a series of all-white looks with panels of lace or crochet that looked wonderful against the stony background of the mountains. The designer also wanted to add a note of "peace and serenity" with his white creations. There were also strikingly tailored outfits that had an Eighties glamour, including a white shirt with puff sleeves worn with a black skirt, and wide belt.  

Fluid evening gowns that drape beautifully on the body are Elie Saab's signature 

Sequined black pantsuit
with dramatic pleated sleeves
Another of Elie Saab's designs he likes to include in all of his collections are jumpsuits. This time there were versions in grass green, black embroidered and beaded translucent tulle, white with feathers and salmon-pink  sequins. Long caped sleeves, ruffles and trains added to the sense of drama that Saab gave to the collection. 

The designer also created a range of accessories, including a capsule of handbags with large colourful totes and cross-body designs. There are also large square-rimmed mirror framed sunglasses and gold-leather flats plus wide, flattering belts.   

Elie Saab's main headquarters, offices and workshop are all in Beirut but he also has an atelier in Paris and boutiques around the world, from Mayfair to Manhattan. For the past three years, his couture collections can be found in Paris, London, and his home city, while his ready-to-wear clothes are sold in 160 retailers and his own stores. 

The designer's passion for fashion started early, he was already interested in sewing as an eight-year-old boy, growing up in suburban Beirut. By the time he was seventeen, Saab had already left for Paris to study fashion. But he decided to return to his hometown to open his own fashion label in 1981. He first specialized in bridal couture using rich fabrics decorated with embroidery, lace, gemstones, crystals and pearls. 

By the 1990s, Saab had become the first non-Italian designer to be a member of the National Chamber of Italian Fashion, he also showed his first collection outside Lebanon in Rome and started his ready-to-wear line in Milan. In 2006, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture inducted him as a membre correspondant and he showed his first ready-to-wear collection in Paris for that Spring-Summer season. Today, he has built a large following for his couture and ready-to-wear shows, full of romantic and dramatic gowns, which have become highlights of the official Paris schedule. Let's hope next season, we will be able to see them in person.

Elie Saab's Spring/Summer 2021 Ready-to-Wear Collection Filmed in Lebanon

Photographs of the highlights of Elie Saab's Spring/Summer 2021

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Victoria Beckham's Dreamy Seventies Vibe for Spring

Highlights of Victoria Beckham's new Seventies-inspired collection: a silk poplin blouse, and patchwork, flared jeans worn with a chunky, brushed gold necklace. 

From Spice Girl to soigné designer, Victoria Beckham has pursued a fashion career that has been equally lauded and lambasted. Her new Spring/Summer 2021 collection, presented in London, has a dreamy, eclectic look inspired by the 1970s, that hints at the good times beyond the pandemic, Ariana Della Rovere reports

Beckham's striking, cut-out dress 
in fluid Jersey.

VICTORIA Beckham had planned to have several small catwalk shows during the day for this season's London Fashion Week. Instead, she decided to present her new collection to small groups of socially distanced guests, as the numbers of Covid-19 cases escalates in the United Kingdom. 

In groups of three, they donned VB facemasks and saw the collection against a backdrop of artworks at the Victoria Miro Gallery, a former furniture factory located between Hoxton and Islington in North London. The designer thought this type of presentation was more suitable to the pandemic and its restrictions. 

For the new season's collection, Beckham ~ who hasn't been wearing the leggings or trackie pants many of us have worn during lockdown ~ had to brainstorm with her team about what to wear when working or lounging around at home.

“Limitations can be liberating," she says. "Working remotely, for this collection we reacted spontaneously. We were instinctive. We asked ourselves what has changed? Who do we want to be? What will we desire?This collection is about freedom - to explore, to dress up, to be yourself."

Instead of putting on anything with an elasticized waist, Beckham maintained her signature, minimalist look at home in vintage denim. And denim features prominently, for the first time, in the new collection. Beckham's jeans have a soft look with wide, flared legs and low waists which she mixed with flowing, silk shirts. Continuing the Seventies theme were long, fluid maxi dresses with lace inserts and bare midriffs.

Instead of wearing anything with an elasticized waist during lockdown, Beckham maintained her signature minimalist look in vintage denim

White wool tuxedo jacket,
Victorian silk blouse,
and split-hem jeans
"Eclectic is a word I keep returning to this season," Beckham explains. "It really encapsulates the [VB] woman, her attitude, her nonchalance. There are different silhouettes, different facets of dressing - coats, fluid dresses, denim and elongated trousers. 

"Hemlines are longer, fits are easier, there’s a fluidity and ease. Really, it’s about a true wardrobe. This collection is rooted in reality - in life, and living. But it’s a dream inspired by reality.” 

Because of the economic constraints of the pandemic of the past months, the label has been downsizing staff and  production costs. 

The 21 pieces in this new collection are less than half the number of last season's, back in February, when there were full-blown runway shows.

The new pieces include long, diaphanous dresses that are always a feature of Beckham's collections, this time in silk and jersey. The designer manages to make her designs wearable but with interesting details. 

"This collection is rooted in reality ~ in life, and living. But it’s a dream inspired by reality.”

Finely-tailored jackets and silk blouses add a note of formality to the jeans and voluminous blouses. Dark denim is contrasted with lighter patchwork and finished in red binding with a slit at the back. The jeans are worn with a long, white tuxedo jacket, voluminous shirt and high, banana-shaped heels (see above). This season's shoes are created from malleable Nappa leather and finished with swags of chains. They add a new note to the Beckham motifs as the designer prefers using flats for shows.  

Summery black lace and lavender
Jersey, evening dress,
Silk slip dresses with key-hole details draw attention to the waist. While the mauve, peach and leopard print gowns had contrasting lace panels, halter-necks or bows at the neck and drew attention to the back, with tie fastenings and crisscross straps. 

Colours were muted in the collection but with bright spots of vivid hues such as brilliant lavender for the summer dresses, emerald green for sharply-tailored trench coats and and orange-taupe for silk, striped blouses. 

Big circular pendants on chunky chain necklaces added to the free and easy Seventies vibe that ran through the entire presentation. 

In the past, at Victoria Beckham’s runway shows, her family has always sat in the front row during London Fashion Week. 

But this time, with Covid-19 altering her plans for a catwalk show, her family were the only guests at the first presentation. Her husband, David Beckham, and three of their four children sat in their own frow. 

Reflecting the aesthetic of the new collection, the family wore black-and-white with a bright dash of colour worn by the designer's daughter Harper, wearing a long, purple dress. Family and work merged for Beckham, as it has for everyone working during the pandemic. 

Highlights from Victoria Beckham's Spring/Summer 2021 collection

Floorlength, leopard-print camisole dress, worn with white Nappa kitten heels with chain detail.

Double-breasted, black wool tuxedo jacket with a white waistcoat and a textured, long skirt in dark navy worn with an ample, brushed gold chain and circular pendant. The red Nappa leather mules are finished with a double swag of chains

Liquid, draped dress with a ruched neck in a soft rose hue, that cascades down to banana-heeled shoes bordered by a chunky, silver chain. 

Patch-pocket, trench coat in cotton worn with a tobacco-hued men's style shirt in Jersey Mesh and split hem, straight-leg trousers in lime green.  

Sharply-tailored, belted trench coat in lime green worn with a cotton, silk stripe shirt and straight-leg tobacco-coloured trousers and thin, burgundy leather belt.  

Attractively-draped, long-sleeve cut-out gown in Jersey that draws attention to the current erogenous zone of fashion now ~ the waist.  

Caramel-hued, single breasted fitted blazer in wool gabardine worn with a matching, frilled sleeveless top and split-hem trousers in the same creamy-gold tones. 

A fluid and beautifully-draped, high-necked, smocked dress in lightweight, stretch Jersey in a soft beige. 

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Landmark Exhibition: Turner's Modern World

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Venice the Bridge of Sighsexhibited 1840.
Oil on canvas, 68.6cm x 91.4cm. Tate, Turner Bequest
Tate Britain's new landmark exhibition of artist Joseph Mallord William Turner's drawings, watercolours and oil paintings will open next month. The show brings together 160 major works, capturing events of the painter's era, from the impact of technology to the modernisation of society, Antonio Visconti reports 

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Burning 
of the Houses of Parliament, c. 1834-5.
Oil on canvas. 30.2cm x 44.4 cm 
Tate, Turner Bequest 
The exhibition at Tate Britain, called Turner’s Modern World, shows how the United Kingdom's greatest landscape painter found new ways to paint the important events of his time. There are rarely seen drawings and paintings, on loan and from the holdings of the Tate’s Turner Bequest. The artist's works evince his interest in social reform, especially his changing attitudes towards politics, labour and slavery.

Turner's paintings depict humanitarian causes including Greek independence from Ottoman Turkey, the 1832 Reform Act and the abolition movement. The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons (1835) shows his engagement with political events of the day. This was an event which Turner witnessed first-hand in 1834 and painted in a series of watercolour sketches. His A Disaster at Sea (1835) and Wreck of a Transport Ship (c.1801) are ambitious depictions of maritime catastrophes. The artist lived through turbulent times as Britain was at war for most of his life, spanning from 1775 until 1851, and revolutions and battles for independence were happening concurrently around the world.

Turner also witnessed the explosion of capitalism along with new scientific and technological advances such as the change from sail to steam and from manpower to mechanisation. One part of the exhibition focuses on Turner’s way of painting steam and how he developed a visual language for the modern world. His work was avant-garde and startled his contemporaries and his vision today is seen as an unusually perspicacious insight into the rapid change that engulfed the early 19th century.

Turner developed a new visual language for the modern world and his work startled his contemporaries

Joseph Mallord William Turner, 
Rain, Steam and Speed, 
- The Great Western Railway
Exhibited 1844. 
91cm x 121.8cm
© The National Gallery, London
Turner was always interested in the industrial world and in the 1840s he was the only one among his fellow artists that had steam boats and railways as subjects of major pictures. In this exhibition you can see Snow Storm (1842) as well as The Fighting ‘Téméraire’ (1839) and Rain, Steam and Speed (1844) on loan the National Gallery.

During Turner's lifetime, political reform plus the scientific and cultural advances transformed society and shaped a new future for the Western world. Living and working at the peak of the industrial revolution, Turner imbued his work with the changes happening around him whereas many other contemporary artists did not. The exhibition starts in the 1790s when Turner first observed life as a young painter and goes on to explore his fascination for industry as a new part of Britain’s agrarian landscape.

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars brought Britain twenty years of conflict with France and living though this time added another dynamic to Turner’s work. The artist grappled with the drama and damage of war in paintings like The Battle of Trafalgar (1806-8) and Field of Waterloo (1818). However, he still liked to paint the Arcadian images of country life and work in Britain throughout his career.

This exhibition displays his recollections of wartime at home and his reflections on the reputations of Nelson, Napoleon and Wellington as well as on ordinary soldiers and civilians. While Turner’s love of mountains and the beauty of nature grew from his regular travel in Britain and overseas. His earliest tours were in England during the 1790s.

It was only in 1819, when he was forty-four, and at the height of his powers as a painter, that he made his first trip to Italy, filling twenty-three sketchbooks with drawings. The city of Venice became a recurring theme of his late work, in oils and watercolours, many of which were made during his stay in 1840.

Turner was the only one among his fellow artists that had steam boats and railways as subjects of major pictures

Joseph Mallord William Turner, 
War. The Exile and the Rock Limpet
Exhibited 1842.
Oil on canvas, 
79.4cm x 79.4cm. 
Tate, Turner Bequest
His late style, with its sweeping brushwork, powerful impressionistic effects and modern subject matter, was a revelation to the art world. Even some of his most devoted patrons, such as influential English art critic John Ruskin were bemused. But Ruskin disapproved of his sketches of nudes and was thought to have burned them in a fit of Victorian censorship. However, in 2005 these drawings were discovered to be mostly in the Tate collection, by Turner scholar Ian Warrell.

Today, the Turner Prize, is a top contemporary art award that was set up in 1984 to celebrate new developments in art. The award cited ‘Turner’ in its name because he was controversial in his own day and he had wanted to establish a prize for young artists. The painter is still considered an inspirational artistic figure as he broke with convention to paint the times in which he lived. Many artists ignored the industrial revolution but Turner faced up to these new challenges. And the artist transformed the way he painted to better capture this new world.

Turner first observed the effects of modern life early in his work and the exhibition's different sections follow his fascination for new industry and technology that led to his famous paintings of steam boats and railway engines of the1840s. The Tate exhibition also looks in detail at his engagement with the Napoleonic War and political events of his lifetime, including the 1832 Reform Act and the campaign against slavery. It also brings together for the first time major works by Turner from around the world, including The Fighting Temeraire (1839) and Rain, Steam and Speed (1844).

Dynamic brushwork, powerful impressionistic 
effects and modern subject matter, made Turner's late work a revelation to the art world

Joseph Mallord William Turner
The Fighting Temeraire,1838. 
Oil on canvas. 90.7cm x 121.6cm
© The National Gallery, London

The aim of the exhibition is also to explore what it meant to be a modern artist in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In Turner's later years he used oils vigorously to capture plays of light and glimmering colour. This mature style can be seen in Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway (see above) where the objects in the painting are barely recognisable.

The intensity of hue and interest in evanescent light not only placed Turner's work in the vanguard of English painting but exerted an influence on art in France; the Impressionists, particularly Claude Monet, carefully studied his techniques and Turner is also regarded as a precursor of abstract painting.

The artist's talent and genius were recognised early in his life and the financial independence that brought allowed him to experiment freely with colour, composition and atmosphere. Ruskin described him as the artist who could most "stirringly and truthfully measure the moods of Nature".

But Turner's work did draw criticism from contemporaries, in particular from Sir George Beaumont, a landscape painter and fellow member of the Royal Academy, who described his paintings as 'blots'. Turner's imagination was sparked by shipwrecks, fires and natural phenomena such as sunlight, storm, rain, and fog. He was fascinated by the violent power of the sea, as seen in Dawn after the Wreck (1840) and The Slave Ship (1840).

Already a prodigious talent as a child, Turner  studied at the Royal Academy of Arts when he was fourteen years old, and exhibited his first work there at fifteen

Joseph Mallord William Turner
Shields On the River Tyne, 1823
Watercolour on paper, 

15cm x 21.6cm
Tate, Turner Bequest
Turner was accomplished as a Romantic painter, printmaker and watercolourist. His expressive work shown through his large-scale landscapes and marine paintings demonstrated his skill and unconventional vision and his prolixity.

He worked hard all of his life and was very prolific, leaving 550 oil paintings, 2,000 watercolours, and 30,000 works on paper.  By the time he was championed by John Ruskin, he was already very highly regarded by his colleagues at the Royal Academy. 

Born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, to a modest family, he was known as William. His father, also William Turner, was a barber and wig maker and his mother, Mary Marshall, came from a family of butchers. He lived in London for most of his life, keeping his Cockney accent. Although he didn't show off his wealth and success, he was the friend and confidant of aristocrats and kings and stayed as a guest at some of Britain's great houses. 

Turner was already a prodigious talent as a child and studied at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1789, enrolling when he was fourteen years old, and exhibiting his first work there at fifteen. He went on to work as an architectural draftsman and then earned a steady income from commissions and sales of his own work. 

He opened his own gallery in 1804 and despite being very inarticulate, became professor of perspective at the Royal Academy in 1807, where he lectured until 1828. He first travelled to Europe in 1802, returning with the bulging sketchbooks that he would later draw on to create his large-scale oil paintings in his London studio. This wide-ranging exhibition gives a new perspective on Turner's work and shows why his paintings and drawings are as enthralling and emotive today as they were in the early 19th century. 

Turner’s Modern World is organised by Tate Britain in collaboration with Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The exhibition runs from the 28th of October 2020 until the 7th of March 2021 at Tate Britain, London.

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Exhibition: Gauguin and the Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection

Berthe Morisot, Young Girl on the Grass (Mademoiselle Isabelle Lambert), 1885
Oil on canvas, 74 x 60 cm © Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

The Royal Academy of Arts’ 
Gauguin and the Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection is the first major show to open in London after the four-month lockdown due to Covid-19.  Many of the works have never been exhibited in the United Kingdom, including masterpieces from Manet and Monet to Corot and Courbet, writes Jeanne-Marie Cilento

Paul Gauguin, Portrait of a Young Girl, Vaïte 
(Jeanne) Goupil, 1896
Oil on canvas, 75 x 65 cm
© Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. 
Photo: Anders Sune Berg
The singular Ordrupgaard Collection was created at the beginning of the twentieth century by Wilhelm and Henny Hansen. The Danish couple amassed an exceptional group of Impressionist paintings that are still displayed at their country estate, located eight kilometres from the centre of Copenhagen. They began to open their house to the public in 1919, showing the striking artworks they had collected, many avant-garde at the time.

The exhibition of the Hansen's collection in London, Gauguin and the Impressionists at the Royal Academy of Arts, was originally scheduled to open in March but was delayed until August by the Covid-19 restrictions. Anna Ferrari, the curator of the show, says: "Nearly half of the works in this exhibition have never been exhibited in the UK before so it is really exciting to be able to show them.

"Wilhelm Hansen was one of the most successful businessmen in Denmark in the early 20th century. He and his wife Henny first started collecting Danish art but Wilhelm discovered French impressionism when he travelled to Paris for work and in 1916 he started buying and building a collection of French impressionist art. He had a great eye for quality and he picked some extraordinary works." Many of the painters in the collection are the 19th-century masters who reshaped Western art. It includes French painting from Eugène Delacroix to Paul Cézanne and is considered one of the most comprehensive collections outside of France.

Paul Gauguin's Portrait of a Young Girl, Vaïte (Jeanne) Goupil (see above) was painted in Tahiti, showing the French child, who lived with her family on a plantation near Papeete. Vaïte was her Tahitian name, and her lawyer father commissioned the portrait from Gauguin. The works in the new exhibition span his career from Brittany to the South of France where he painted with Van Gogh and then to his life in Polynesia.

"In the exhibition, Gauguin has an important place because there are eight works by him and that reflects Gauguin's importance as an artist in the early 20th century when the Hansens were collecting," explains Ferrari. While the painter was influenced by Impressionism in his early years, his work became more Symbolist with the strong colours and a dreamlike atmosphere of this work.
The portrait of Jeanne Goupil is one of Anna Ferrari's favourites of the exhibition: "I think it's a really arresting and mesmerizing portrait, particularly because of  the contrast between the bright, vivid background and the brown dress and pale face of the little girl."

Many of the painters included in the collection are the 19th century masters who reshaped Western art

Alfred Sisley, Unloading Barges at Billancourt, 1877
Oil on canvas, 50 x 65 cm
© Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. 
Photo: Anders Sune Berg
Wilhelm Hansen’s interest in art began during his time at school. Here he met his friend and classmate Peter Hansen, who later became a painter and introduced him to his artistic circle. He first started collecting by buying these young, local artists' paintings and then other more well-known Danish contemporary artists.  

Wilhelm Hansen was an industrious man and had a remarkable business career. He funded the Danish companies Dansk Folkeforsikringsanstalt and Mundus and was the managing director of Hafnia, from1905 until 1936.

Alongside his business career, Hansen enjoyed collecting artworks not only for himself but also to bring French art to a wider audience in Scandinavia. Hansen learnt more about French Impressionist painting during business trips to Paris. From 1916 to 1918, he was collecting works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Sisley and Gauguin. He wanted to build a collection with up to twelve works by each of the most important French artists, from Corot to Cézanne, providing an overview of early modernist art.

Waterloo Bridge, Overcast, 1903, by Claude Monet, 
on display in ‘Gauguin and the Impressionists: 
Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection’,  
at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. 
Photo: © David Parry
Wilhelm Hansen kept collecting up until the late 1920s, advised by French writer and art critic, Théodore Duret, who was a friend of Manet, and an early champion of Impressionism. Hansen also collected works by the predecessors of Impressionism. Advised by Duret, Hansen bought paintings by important earlier nineteenth-century painters including Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, Delacroix, Corot and Courbet. 

During the First World War, Denmark remained neutral and was quite prosperous and this gave Hansen the opportunity to buy important works from the most prestigious Parisian galleries including the Galerie Durand-Ruel and the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. However, Hansen had a brief hiatus when he was forced to sell part of his collection to pay his debts when the Danish Landmandsbank collapsed in 1922. But he kept his Gauguins and managed to make his fortune back within a year ~ and then kept collecting. This exhibition even reproduces one of Hansen’s original hangs based on archival photographs.

In 1951, Hansen's widow, Henny, bequeathed their home and collection to the Danish state, which turned it into a museum in 1953. A fluid and sinuous extension to the building was designed by architect Zaha Hadid in 2005 and the museum has gained a strong architectural profile. Today, the museum houses one of the finest collections of Impressionist paintings in northern Europe. Currently the Ordrupgaard is closed for the construction of another new wing designed by Norwegian architects Snøhettaand, this has provided the opportunity for the Royal Academy of Arts to hold the exhibition of the collection in London.

The museum houses one of the finest collections of Impressionist paintings in northern Europe.

Camille Pissarro, Plum Trees in Blossom, 
Éragny, 1894
Oil on canvas, 60 x 73 cm
© Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. 
Photo: Anders Sune Berg 
The exhibition also includes paintings by Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley.

The three works by Pissarro represent the landscape around his home in Eragny, This delightful picture, Plum tress in Blossom, Eragny (see at right) captures the dappled spring light, vibrant colours and immediacy of  painting in outside. You can almost feel the sun and smell the scent of the blossoms and the fresh green grass.

In 1884, Pissarro and his family moved to Éragny, north-west of Paris. This painting shows the garden of his house with his wife walking up the path evincing his interest in depicting everyday life at home, in his village or in the fields. Camille Pissarro was the oldest of the group of Impressionist painters and he exhibited at all eight Impressionist Exhibitions and came to play the role of an artistic father figure to other painters, including Gauguin.

The exhibition also features precursors of Impressionism such as Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Jules Dupré and Charles-François Daubigny, and some Post-Impressionist works such as the special group of eight paintings by Paul Gauguin. The exhibition opens with landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes mostly painted in and around Paris, the Normandy coast and London, showing how the Impressionists broke away from the classical Italianate landscapes. There are paintings of the forest of Fontainebleau where, in the 1860s, a new generation of painters such as Monet, Sisley and Renoir, went to paint en plein air.

The exhibition opens with landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes mostly painted in and around Paris, the Normandy coast and London,

Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, Overcast, 1903
Oil on canvas, 65.5 x 100.5 cm
© Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. 
Photo: Anders Sune Berg
Brilliant blue skies with scudding clouds and bobbing boats on the water are highlights of Sisley’s scenes of the banks of the Seine. There are also cityscapes of London and Paris by Monet and Pissarro who were inspired by the light and atmosphere of these modern cities.

Claude Monet's Waterloo Bridge, Overcast of 1903 (see at right) shows both the beauty of the foggy light and crowds of people crossing plus smokestacks lining the horizon of the city, above the choppy, brown waters of the Thames. Hansen bought the painting on a trip to Paris in 1916, when the painting must have still have seemed experimental and was painted just over a decade earlier.

Monet painted this picture from his hotel room at the Savoy in London and it is one of a series he began at the start of the 20th century, studying the same view under different weather conditions and at various times of the day. While this painting shows the Waterloo Bridge, the Thames and the factories on the opposite bank, it also captures the atmospheric conditions: the rippling of the water, chimney smoke in the background and the fog that envelops the scene. The painting was not a spontaneous work done on the spot but was the result of a long process, where Monet began the painting in London but later finished it at length in his studio in Giverny.

Young Girl on the Grass, the Red Bodice 
(Mademoiselle Isabelle Lambert), 
1885, by Berthe Morisot, on display in 
‘Gauguin and the Impressionists: 
Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection’, 
at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. 
Photo: © David Parry
The exhibition also has a section about women that were part of the Impressionist movement and there are also portraits of women painted by Degas and Renoir, In the late 1910s, the Hansens acquired paintings by Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzalès, whose work was less widely recognised, despite their importance. The works show intimate and domestic scenes which reflect the constraints they faced as women artists at the time.

"Excitingly we have works by Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzales, it's really interesting that Wilhelm Hansen collected works by women Impressionists because at the time they weren't as well known as their male counterparts," says Anna Ferrari. Key portraits include Morisot’s Young Girl on the Grass, the Red Bodice (Mademoiselle Isabelle Lambert), 1885 (see main picture above).

The picture shows a young girl who posed for Morisot several times. The painter wanted to capture the youthful energy of Mademoiselle Lambert with an impressionistic approach, working in the open air and and experimenting with different brushwork. Morisot often painted at her house and in her garden, inspired by her home like many other Impressionists. She worked in oil, watercolor and pastel, drawing quickly but making countless sketches and studies of her subjects, which were drawn from life.

Berthe Morisot showed two landscape paintings at the Salon de Paris in 1864, when she was twenty-three years old. She continued to show at the Salon, to favorable reviews, until 1873, the year before the first Impressionist exhibition. She exhibited with the Impressionists from 1874 onwards, only missing the exhibition in 1878 when her daughter was born. The art dealer Durand-Ruel bought twenty-two of her paintings. She always exhibited under her maiden name instead of using a pseudonym or her married name (she was married to Édouard Manet's brother Eugène). By 1880, when she exhibited her work, many reviews judged Morisot's work to be among the best of the Impressionist painters.

"It's really interesting that Wilhelm Hansen collected works by women Impressionists because at the time they weren't as well known as their male counterparts"

Paul Cézanne, Women Bathing, c. 1895
Oil on canvas, 47 x 77 cm
© Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen. 
Photo: Anders Sune Berg
The exhibition ends with Gauguin and Post-Impressionism. There are works by artists who, at the turn of the century, reacted against Impressionism: Gauguin, Cézanne and Henri Matisse. Gauguin is one of the best represented artists in the collection with the display of paintings that evoke the arc of his career.

Completing the show is Cézanne’s Women Bathing, c. 1895, a dynamic composition of nude figures set in vivid blue and green Arcadian bower of trees and grass. "Cezanne's bathers is one of my favourite works of the exhibition because I love the colours and you can really see Cezanne working out the poses of the figures and thinking about structure and form in this frieze-like painting," comments Anna Ferrari.

The work shows Cézanne’s experimental method of painting with small, parallel strokes and using sketches and other pictures for the inspiration for the figures rather than drawing them directly from life. The painting doesn't show a particular situation or moment, as an Impressionist work would, but instead uses themes often explored in Cézanne's work and points towards the abstract movement in modern art.

Gauguin and the Impressionistsis: Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection,  is at the Royal Academy, London, until 18 October.

Subscribe to support our independent and original journalism, photography, artwork and film.