‘Once in a lifetime’: Major impressionist exhibition opens at The Louvre Abu Dhabi

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A major exhibition of paintings by some of the world’s most well-known artists is being held at The Louvre Abu Dhabi.

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‘Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity’ runs from October 12 to February 5, displaying artwork from Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Renoir and others.

More than 100 paintings are on display, including many that were flown over from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.

The monetary value and cultural significance of the artwork is so great that paintings had to be transported over on several flights in case of an accident, which would have wiped out a considerable portion of the museum’s collection.

“It’s a once in a lifetime exhibition,” Sylvie Patry, Chief Curator at the Musee d’Orsay told Al Arabiya English during a press preview on Tuesday.

“It’s really the first time ever that there is an impressionist exhibition in the region,” she explained.

The exhibition kicks off with Edouard Manet’s ‘The Balcony and Claude’ and Monet’s ‘Women in the Garden,’ with the latter on display to the public outside of France for the first time since a major conservation treatment.

Sylvie Patry, Chief Curator at the Musee d’Orsay with Claude Monet's The Magpie at the Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity exhibition at The Louvre in Abu Dhabi. (Marco Ferrari/Al Arabiya English)
Sylvie Patry, Chief Curator at the Musee d’Orsay with Claude Monet's The Magpie at the Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity exhibition at The Louvre in Abu Dhabi. (Marco Ferrari/Al Arabiya English)

Visitors are invited to explore the history of the impressionist movement as they move through the exhibition, which highlights the influence that the then-new technology of photography had on artists in the late 19th century.

The industrial revolution in Europe, which saw people move from rural areas to cities in unprecedented numbers, influenced the way that impressionists worked, turning their gaze to both modern industrial scenes, and away from city life to the countryside.

Patry sees parallels in today’s United Arab Emirates, which has seen rapid urbanization in the last 50 years.

“We hope the exhibition will speak to everybody's heart here because what the society in France was facing at the time could be compared to what we as citizens of the world are facing today, but also to specifically what happens in Abu Dhabi today,” she said.

“This is a transition between two worlds.”

A wide range of styles are displayed in the work of the impressionists, with painters such as Gustave Caillebotte creating realist works inspired by photography such as the ‘The Floor Scrapers’ (now on display at the Louvre).

Others, including Monet, rejected the realism of photography and moved towards a more imaginative style.

Rouen Catherdral by Claude Monet, on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi as part of the Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity exhibition. (Marco Ferrari/Al Arabiya English)
Rouen Catherdral by Claude Monet, on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi as part of the Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity exhibition. (Marco Ferrari/Al Arabiya English)

Stephane Guegan, Scientific Advisor to the President of the Musée d'Orsay, explained some of the philosophy of the impressionists, who initially faced criticism from the art establishment in France at the time.

Impressionists were thought to “receive impression and to translate them on the canvas without any intention of composing, without any thought, without any symbolical background,” he said.

Christophe Leribault, President of the Musée d’Orsay, explained how the exhibition is completely unique, as it brings together related works that would be scattered throughout the Paris museum.

“You have here only masterpieces all together, which is not the case usually in Paris, so it’s very striking and very fairly new,” he said.

Manuel Rabate, Director of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, spoke about how the “heavyweight” exhibition finally came together after four years in the making, and after it was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Having these masterpieces here, accessible, articulated into a narrative that helps you to understand the chronology, the logic of the creation, the birth of impressionism, is indeed a gift to the people living here or visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi.”

‘Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity’ also includes a curatorial talk and an express tour of the exhibition. There is no extra cost other than general admission to the museum.

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