If you’re already nostalgic for the grand Impressionist show that ended at The Met, you can still find your favorites filling the Frick’s two downstairs galleries and the room next to the gift shop. While the Clark Art Institute (Williamstown, Massachusetts) was undergoing renovation, the Frick borrowed some of their finest works on paper for the gem-of-a-show, The Impressionist Line from Degas to Toulouse-Lautrec: Drawings and Prints from the Clark.
If you loved seeing Al Hirschfeld apply his pen and ink to paper in our last post, you will delight in perusing how lines by Degas, Manet, Lautrec, and Gaugin created a profitable niche in the rapidly expanding art market at the 19th century’s end. (By the way, Hirschfeld fans, who knew that Monet drew crazy caricatures to support himself early in his career? Claude’s Man with a Snuff Box looks like it was drawn in the 1950s…not the 1850s!)
Although a few politically charged works are in the show (like Manet’s 1874 print of the Commune uprising The Barricade), the majority are masterworks of portraiture, everyday life, cafes, and modern entertainments like horseracing, circuses, and boulevard promenades. Some of our favorites are Degas’s sketches of horses in motion and Lautrec’s circus-themed sketches that he drew from memory while in rehab.
If you can’t get to the show, the Frick web site allows you to peruse all of these works in detail (with the curator’s descriptions) by decade, by artist, or by the order in which they’re hung in the exhibition.
For sheer theatricality and delight, Lautrec takes the cake in this show, as shown in the images here. The hand-painted 1896 Lumiere Brothers film below shows silk-clad modern dance pioneer Loïe Fuller making the moves that inspired Lautrec to create dozens of experimental lithographs (sprinkled in gold and silver powder, no less!) of her abstractionist performances.
Yes, it’s all about the line.
If you have time, watch the video of the co-curator’s lecture about Impressionist line and how sketches, watercolors, woodcuts, lithographs, pastels, and improvised etchings created a revolution in affordable art.