Edgar Degas,  Woman in a Tub, c. 1883
Tate: Bequeathed by Mrs. A.F. Kessler 1983 © Tate, London 2011

Pastels, Watercolours and Drawings

The Exhibition runs from February 10, 2012 to May 13, 2012

The Albertina, Vienna, Austria  - The exhibition will present up to 200 drawings, watercolours and pastels by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Active in France during the second half of the nineteenth century and closely associated with avant-garde movements, artists such as Manet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Seurat, Gauguin, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec created works on paper that may be less well known than their paintings but which are just as significant. This is the first international exhibition devoted exclusively to drawings by these artists and will considerably extend knowledge of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

The starting point for Impressionism on Paper is the fact that a large proportion (40%) of all the items shown in the eight Impressionist exhibitions held in Paris between 1874 and 1886 were works on paper. Many of these can be identified and are included on the selection list. To this core will be added numerous other examples by these artists and others that will provide an overview of their drawing skills at this critical stage in the development of a widely appreciated moment in the development of French art.

The aim is to demonstrate the different types of drawing pursued by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists and to demonstrate the various purposes to which their works on paper were put.

Drawing is not an activity with which the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists have so far been closely associated. The exhibition, however, will illustrate unequivocally and for the first time that for these artists drawing was a primary function and not a secondary activity.   Although drawings were used as part of the preparatory process towards a painting, more and more they came to be regarded by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as finished works of art in their own right. Many of the pastels by Degas, the watercolours by Cézanne, the pen and ink drawings by Van Gogh or the works in mixed media by Toulouse-Lautrec were made on a large scale specifically for exhibition.

Impressionism on Paper, therefore, will show that far from ignoring the art of drawing the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists chose to emphasize its primacy thereby ceasing to uphold or even recognize the traditional distinction between drawing and painting. Instead, they elevated the status of drawing to the level of painting itself regarding both practices as part of a single aesthetic.

The result was that the traditional hierarchy separating painting from drawing established during the Renaissance ceased with the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. This, in turn, had considerable consequences for the development of modern art in so far as the fusion of line and colour resulting from a series of multiple gestural acts, which characterizes the best examples of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist drawings, paved the way for such artists as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Cy Twombly and Bridget Riley.