IBJOpinion

LOU'S VIEWS: Neo-Impressionist show impresses at IMA

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

They shimmer.

And that’s just the surface appeal of many of the works in the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait, 1886-1904” (June 15-Sept. 7). The exhibition shines a light, so to speak, on one of the IMA’s strengths (one of the most impressive collections of neo-Impressionist paintings outside of France) and supplements its holdings with loans from up the road and around the world.

The term “neo-Impressionist” might seem intimidating to those who didn’t major in art, but the basic idea is simple: As demonstrated in his masterpiece “Sunday on the Grande Jatte” (the work that inspired the musical “Sunday in the Park with George”), Georges Seurat showed how complementary colors could create a greater intensity when combined in the eye rather than mixed on the painter’s palate. He did that not just through pointillism—the use of dots in lieu of broader strokes—but through the careful placement of color, a science whose theorists he studied.

Some saw his technique as cold, but as one of the leading art critics of the time, Felix Feneon, wrote, “The atmosphere is transparent and uncommonly vibrant; the surface seems to flicker or glimmer.”

Alas, Seurat’s “Grande Jatte” is not part of this show (You’ll have to head to the Art Institute of Chicago to see it—which you should do if you haven’t already). But its influence permeates “Face to Face.” What the show does primarily feature are artists Seurat influenced, exploring and expounding on his breakthroughs. The addition catch: Unlike Seurat, they focused their paintings on people.

The most famous of the works collected here, Vincent van Gogh’s 1887 self-portrait, comes from a period he spent in Paris when he was “seeking oppositions of blue with orange, red and green, yellow and violet.” On loan from the Art Institute of Chicago, its familiarity doesn’t minimize its power.

Given more prominence is Theo van Rysselberghe, a Belgian artist (most of the work here comes from France and Belgium) who, inspired by Seurat’s “Grande Jatte,” transitioned from realism to this new brand of pointillism. His trio of portraits of the Sethe sisters, the earliest from 1888 and the latest from 1894, showcase his evolving technique. His “In July, Before Noon” offers a bucolic, populated parkscape that recalls Seurat’s most famous painting but gives it a style all its own.

Art mavens and newcomers alike are likely to pay particular attention to Paul Signac’s painting with the long-winded title “Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones and Tints, Portrait of M. Felix Feneon in 1890.” The striking, almost psychedelic piece should appeal to the academics for its historic value and the fact that it hasn’t appeared in America in about 30 years.

ae-plate-main36-crop-15col.jpg Paul Signac’s “Opus 217...” offers a background that would seem to come from 1969 rather than 1890. (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art)

The layperson, on the other hand, is more likely to be stopped by its background, which would seem more at home on a 1969 album cover than in an 1896 gallery. Perhaps the IMA is missing an opportunity by not selling a black-light version in the gift shop.

Signac also offers “Woman Arranging Her Hair,” in which his then-mistress and future wife’s mirrored face is cryptically blotched out, and “Portrait of My Mother,” whose sourpuss stare seems to be wilting the flower she holds. One wonders at her response to the work, which nonetheless seems to hold its own brand of magic, with a simple sailboat and fantastic trees in its background.

Here and elsewhere, it becomes clear that a portrait doesn’t have to be a staged would-be glamour shot. Maximilien Luce’s “Morning, Interior” honors the anonymous laborer, sitting on his cot, putting on a shoe before a day’s work. Henry van de Velde’s peaceful “Portrait of Laurent in Blankenberghe” features the artist’s brother, lost in a book, while the seascape looms, seemingly in another frame, behind him. And Georges Lemmen’s “Loie Fuller” dispenses with facial—or even body—recognition completely and, instead, re-creates the sense of movement in his subject, an American dancer popular in Europe at the time.


ae-newfacesplate48-15col.jpg Théo van Rysselberghe’s “In July, Before Noon” can be seen as a response to Georges Seurat’s “Sunday on the Grande Jatte.” (Photo courtesy Indianapolis Museum of Art)

There are surprises in the show, too, including a gallery largely devoted to black-and- white work using the same dotted building blocks. One lesson: Shades of gray can also resonate as well as color.

For those who need some hands-on activity—and for younger visitors brought along by grown-ups—a sidebar gallery, set with café tables, offers a chance to create your own pointillist image.

The exhibition is accompanied by a beautiful Yale University Press-published book (I know the technical term is catalog, but that always sounds cold and off-putting to me) with text by IMA curator Ellen Wardwell Lee and Jane Block, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Docent-led exhibition tours are offered daily, but I recommend sitting in on the no-extra-charge curator talk on June 19.

While the IMA is free to anyone, this special exhibition does have a $12 adult cover charge for non-members.•

__________

This column appears weekly. Send information on upcoming arts and entertainment events to lharry@ibj.com.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Uh, sorry Johnnie, but you are incorrect. Despite the assertions by yourself and various defenders and captains, sports attendance is NOT off significantly at most sporting events in the US. Variances in attendance has been in the range of single digits, both + & - for years now. MLB has had most of its best overall attendance nubers in the last decade, and that trend has been consistent for most major sporting events. The number one issue cited by most fans when asked about attendance is the overall cost of attending. The presence of HD and big screen televisions in home doesn't even register, as a factor for not attending an event. VALUE in the product is the key, and apparently is something lacking in the current ICS. What other explanation is there when with what is routinely touted as the "best" racing on the planet, fans are staying away in DROVES. A "close" title battle into the last event at Fontana, with the "cars and stars" of the ICS, and who showed up? MAYBE 8K. Sorry, but HD TV isn't to blame for that kind of fan apathy.

  2. Do you need finance to establish your business ? Are you interested in getting a loan at 3% from our private company? If so please Email: suntrust_oil@blumail.org

  3. If she was worth the $ the public outcry over direct tv dropping them would have kept them on their dishes as we have seen with other companies. I too quit watching channel 13 after she showed up since I left channel 8 because of her all show rather than production results. When Randy on 8 corrected her she had a big head and incorrectly challenged his correction for pronunciation of a city. Other antics while she matures was too much for me with her very inaccurate forecasts. All the forecasters were predicting rain until Thursday except Chris. They predicted sunny on Thursday but instead of rain until Thursday upon which the sun would finally make it out in full glory Chris was right on the money just as I too predicted looking at the radar on weather.gov. One thing I love about Angela is the fear you can see in her every time it thunders in the winter. It far exceeds the entertainment value of her body language (high heel noise drags, depression, etc) when her forecasts are so incorrect. Her hair stands on end, you have to see it!!!

  4. Good Day, Apply For A Loan I am Mr Fernadez Antonio, a private Loan lender and a cooperate financial for real estate and any kinds of business financing. I also offer Loans to individuals, Firms and cooperate bodies at 3% interest rate We offer any kind of loans. email us via fernadezloaninvest@outlook.com LOAN APPLICATION FORM First name:......................... Middle name:......................... Last name:........................................ Date of birth (yyyy-mm-dd):....................... Gender:........................................... Marital status:................................... Total Amount Needed............................... Loan Duration.................................... Address:.......................................... City:............................................. State/province:................................... Zip/postal code:.................................. Country:.......................................... Phone:............................................ Fax:.............................................. Mobile/cellular:.................................. Monthly Income.................................... Occupation:....................................... Best Regard, Mr Fernadez Antonio.

  5. i will love to share my testimony to you all the people in world i got married to my husband about 2 year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side i have never love any man in my life except him. he is the father of my child and i don't want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today .few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid,being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.i called my mom and explain every thing to her,my mother told me about DR.okoro how he helped her solve the problem between her and my dad i was surprise about it because they have been without each other for three and a half years and it was like a miracle how they came back to each other. i was directed to DR. okoro on his email:okorospell@gmail.com and explain everything to him,so he promise me not to worry that he will cast a spell and make things come back to how we where so much in love again and that it was another female spirit that was controlling my husband he told me that my problem will be solved within two days if i believe i said OK So he cast a spell for me and after two days my love came back asking me to forgive him i Am so happy now. so that why i decided to share my experience with every body that have such problem contact Dr okoro the great spell caster on his email addresses spellcasterforlove@outlook.com

ADVERTISEMENT