Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay

AGSA Claude Monet, The Water Lilies Pond, pink harmonyMore than sixty-five French Impressionist masterpieces from the renowned collection of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, feature in a major exhibition presented exclusively at the Art Gallery of South Australia from 29 March to 29 July 2018.

Titled Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, the exhibition charts the revolution of colour that lies at the very heart of Impressionism. Curated by Marine Kisiel and Paul Perrin of the Musée d’Orsay for the Art Gallery of South Australia in collaboration with Art Exhibitions Australia, the exhibition underscores the truly seismic nature of Impressionism and offers a new perspective on the nineteenth century’s most important art movement.

“It is a privilege to be working with the esteemed Musée d’Orsay to bring these masterpieces of French Impressionism to Australia,” said Art Gallery of South Australia Director, Nick Mitzevich. “We anticipate that an exhibition of this calibre and content will have broad appeal and that the focus on colour will provide a unique perspective on one of the most ground-breaking movements in Western art.”

Colours of Impressionism will be the first major museum exhibition in South Australia to focus on Impressionist painting and it builds on the Art Gallery of South Australia’s aim to present major international exhibitions and significant works of art to Australian audiences.”

No fewer than ten exceptional paintings by Claude Monet are presented including the artist’s celebrated work, La pie (The magpie). Painted by Monet in the open air, the snowscape features a novel palette of pale, lustrous colours, which caused the painting to be rejected by the Salon, the annual official art exhibition, in 1869.

The Musée d’Orsay has generously lent this painting to the Gallery together with Monet’s Un coin d’appartement (A corner of the apartment), Le bassin aux nymphéas, harmonie rose (Water lily pond, pink harmony) and one of the Musée d’Orsay’s five versions of La cathédrale de Rouen. Le portail et la tour Saint-Romain, plein soleil (Rouen Cathedral: the portal and Saint-Romain tower, full sunlight). 

These works will be displayed alongside celebrated masterworks including Édouard Manet’s La serveuse de bocks (The beer maid), Paul Cézanne’s Le golfe de Marseille vu de l’Estaque (The Gulf of Marseilles seen from l’Estaque), Gustave Caillebotte’s Vue de toits (effet de neige) (Rooftops in the snow [snow effect]) and Pierre Auguste Renoir’s Gabrielle à la rose (Gabrielle with a rose).

From Manet’s Spanish-inspired canvases, picked out in shades of black, grey and brown and with dramatic touches of light, to the rich green and blue hues of the French countryside as painted by Cézanne, Monet and Pissarro, and the rosy pigments of Renoir’s and Morisot’s female figures, Colours of Impressionism recasts the story of the art movement as one of intensifying chromatic brilliance.

Also featured in the exhibition are works by Neo-Impressionist artists such as Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, who heralded a new chapter in the movement through their scientific approach to the application of colour. Examples of materials used by Impressionist painters including palettes and a paintbox, gifted to the Musée d’Orsay from the artists’ families, will also be included.

Mitzevich describes the exhibition as “the most important exhibition ever to be shown at the Art Gallery of South Australia. With so few Impressionist works held in Australian collections, the exhibition presents a rare opportunity for Australians to see the movement’s radical evolution of colour. I would like to thank the Musée d’Orsay for sharing this remarkable collection with Australia.”

In an unprecedented move, the Art Gallery of South Australia will be staging the exhibition in one of Australia’s few nineteenth-century gallery spaces, the Elder Wing, a fitting backdrop for Colours of Impressionism.

“The Musée d’Orsay is delighted to join in this first collaboration with the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide and Art Exhibitions Australia,” said Mme Laurence des Cars, Présidente des musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie. After the exhibition, The Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, organised in 2004 in Melbourne, the Musée d’Orsay has continued to forge links with leading Australian cultural institutions.”

“The exhibition Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay presents carefully selected paintings from the museum’s Impressionist collection, which is the best in the world in this domain.”

Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay
Art Gallery of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide
Exhibition: 29 March – 29 July 2018
Admission fees apply

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Claude Monet, The Water Lilies Pond, pink harmony (detail), 1900, oil on canvas, 90 x 100 cm; Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France. ©photo Musée d’Orsay / rmn