Eni is a partner of the exhibition Musée d'Orsay. Masterpieces, from 22 February to 8 June in the Brasini Wing of the Complesso Monumentale del Vittoriano in Rome.
This renewed support for the Vittoriano will see a selection of outstanding work by some of the greatest artists of the period 1848 to 1914 - including Gauguin, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Manet, Corot, Seurat many more - on show. The exhibition features a selection of over sixty works ranging from the academic painting of the Salons to the visual revolution of impressionism and the formalism of Les Nabis and the symbolists.
This overview of the avant-garde and modernity will be prefaced with a new account of how a former railway station in the heart of Paris became one of the world's most important museums. From the varying origins of its collection to the construction of the building for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, right up to its subsequent transformation, with special attention to the design and layout completed in 1986 by the Italian architect Gae Aulenti who died last year.
"Musée d'Orsay. Masterpieces", curated by Guy Cogeval and Xavier Rey, is arranged in five sections: the first concentrates on the art of the Salon, which forms the original nucleus of the museum's collection, and compares it with the then-emerging and much disparaged realism; the reappraisal of academic painting by artists such as Cabanel, Bouguereau and Henner, who achieved particular prominence in the years between 1860 and 1870, contemporaneously with the birth and affirmation of the realist painting of Courbet.
The second section illustrates the changes in landscape painting introduced by the Barbizon School, which signalled the beginning of the impressionistic study of light. The painters who populated Barbizon's world paved the way, through their atmospheric studies, for the impressionist landscapes, while nevertheless retaining a certain poeticism in their work.
There follows a section dedicated to modernity of the impressionists. Despite their interest in the representation of the effects of light in the open air, their work was not restricted to landscapes and the pleasures of the countryside. On the contrary, the impressionists sought a connection between the modernity of their technique and their subjects And Paris, as the symbol of excellence in the transformations brought about by industrialisation and technological development, provided a vast range of new subjects. "The new painting‘, as impressionism came to be called, had to abandon the old models inherited from the past in order to keep up with the accelerate pace of nineteenth century civilisation.
The exhibition then moves on to examine the evolution of painting in the second half of the nineteenth century as represented by Symbolism. Having closely studied the lessons of impressionism, the artists who followed Gauguin to Pont Aven, in a Brittany that was still considered very far from the century's transformations, groups such as Les Nabis invented new forms that gave their work a special emotive content.
The show concludes with the legacy of impressionism, the significance of which was both immense and almost immediate. Starting in the 1880s the pointillists pushed to the limits the chromatic separations introduced by the impressionists. Some of the impressionists abandoned realism. Monet, for example, whose colours are always independent of nature and applied with ever-increasing brushstrokes. The abandonment of perspective was now definitive and experimentation flourished, from the cloisonnisme of Gauguin to Les Nabis, who reaffirmed the decorative dimension of painting in large formats. In a certain sense, thanks to the complexity of the new techniques, the majesty and grandeur of classical painting was re-established while, at the same time, opening the doors for the avant-garde movements of the twentieth century.