Impressionists on Water

By Michael Raffety


Saturday was the opening for the Legion of Honor’s Impressionists on Water exhibit timed to key off the 34th America’s Cup races. The races conclude the weekend of Sept. 21-22. The Legion show continues through Oct. 13.

Having just returned from vacationing in New York, Chicago and Rockford, Ill., I am writing this before seeing the show, but having been provided in advance a picture gallery of paintings featured in the show. As previously predicted I have seen many of these in the Legion’s collection already.

Whenever I go to San Francisco for a press preview of an exhibit at the de Young of the Legion, afterwards I tour the museum because there is always a new acquisition on display or paintings on display may have been changed out with paintings in storage that I haven’t seen yet. That’s the advantage of big city museums with large collections acquired through bequests, tax-write-off gifts, pure gifts or purchases.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco picked the Legion of Honor, of course, because of its repoussoir view of the Golden Gate Bridge — meaning it is framed in the foreground by trees.

The Legion is also home to a significant number of Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet, Gustave Caillebotte, Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley. Also included in this show is a famous Japanese woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai. The print is popularly known as the Big Wave from his 36 Views of Mount Fuji.

Altogether there are 85 paintings in the show plus “two boats and six boat models.” I’m looking forward to seeing where they placed the boats. The only museum I’ve been to with an actual boat was the Kennedy Library in Boston, which featured Kennedy’s sailboat just outside the three-story windows of the museum’s lobby. It was a rainy day and it almost looked like it was afloat on the stormy bay.

Some interesting notes from the press release that was news to me was the closeness of several Impressionist painters to yachting:

“Caillebotte lived by the Seine and spent time building and racing yachts, Monet painted in a floating boat studio, and (Édouard) Manet made multiple attempts to become a naval officer.”

The other works include a number from private collections, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the national museum of Stockholm and the Kröller-Muller Museum in Otterlo in the Netherlands.

For those many of our readers who, like myself, paint with watercolor, you’ll certainly be impressed with The Shipwreck painted in 1858 in watercolor and opaque watercolor over graphite underdrawing by Eugène Isabey.

From the National Gallery comes a bright multicolored Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1897 oil painting of Oarsman at Chatou.

A painter that seems to have mastered clouds is Eugène Louis Boudin, who has two paintings from the museum’s collection — Storm Over Antwerp, 1872, and Dunkirk, 1889, plus a third that is more overcast than dramatically cloudy.

It’s a fun exhibit and a chance to see some paintings from around he world.


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