Yesterday I had the great good fortune to enjoy one of the great experiences of a lifetime. San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor, is in and of it’s self a thing of beauty and a joy to visit. In this day of extremes in everything, particularly in architecture for public buildings, I find it quite comforting to walk into a building that reminds me of a gentler time. The grand old building, sitting high above the entrance to the bay, often, like yesterday, sporting a delicate petticoat of ocean mists, is rather like a guardian to the bay and a guardian of the lovely things housed inside.
So, I’m trying to write this revue. It’s hard. I’m having a hard time focusing on just writing a simple and concise revue because I keep seeing the paintings and giving way to how they made me feel. Be prepared to be stabbed in breast … how these paintings can be rendered in gentle, opalescent, hues and still be so bold, so intense, so incredibly dynamic is beyond me; but then, that’s why they are in the Legion of Honor, the Louver, the Guggenheim and the Tate and I’m not, isn’t it?
This grand exhibition, designed to coincide with San Francisco’s hosting of the America’s Cup races, is a must see. And don’t put it off! Time is running out. The exhibition closes on October 13th.
There are 80 paintings and works on paper in all representing such powerhouse names as Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Caillebotte. Post-Impressionists suck as Toulouse Lautrec, Maurice Denis and Paul Signac are represented as well.
Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro and Post-Impressionists such as Maurice Denis and Paul Signac—artists whose breathtaking artistry reflects their own deep understanding of pleasure boating and competition.
Why this apparent passion for the water and boating among the late 19th century arts community? For one, it was a time when the concept of middle and working class people being able to recreate themselves. It was a time when urban dwellers looked for ways to enjoy a bit of country life, and the small waterside communities along the banks of the Seine provided that escape. But more than that, the impressionists had a love of light, a love of the way light effected objects and where does light better dance and play than on water?
But more than their fascination with light, many of the artists became not only fascinated by but even infatuated with the water, boats and boating. Some of them even became excellent and innovative yachtsmen, like Gustave Caillebotte, who not only sailed small craft, but designed them. Models of several of the craft he designed are on display as well.
While at the Legion of Honor I discovered some old friends of mine; paintings from the Kress collection that use to be at the de Young Museum, including two of my favorite el Greco’s. Oh yes, for those of you who like romanticism, the Legion of Honor is also home to one of the world’s finest collections of the works of sculptor, Auguste Rodin
Yes, “Impressionists’ on the Water,” is a don’t miss exhibition, however a visit to the Palace of the Legion of Honor is a worthy pursuit at any time.