National Galleries of Scotland Show Makes a Big Impression at RSA Edinburgh

Edgar Degas, 'Before the Performance', circa 1896 - 1898
Edgar Degas, 'Before the Performance', circa 1896 - 1898. Image National Galleries of Scotland.

Title:
A Taste for Impressionism: Modern French Art From Millet to Matisse

Times:
Daily, 10:00 - 17:00

From: 30 Jul 2022

To: 13 Nov 2022

Venue:
Royal Scottish Academy
The Mound
Edinburgh
Edinburgh & the Lothians
EH2 2EL

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A Taste for Impressionism at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh focuses on the pioneering nineteenth-century Scottish collectors who had the foresight to invest in the avant-garde of the time – including the most revered artists in history, including French painters Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, whose work now fetches millions at auction, whereas at the time they were criticised by the press, and the prices for their paintings were low.

Many of these collectors were thought of as ‘new money’ collectors, having made their fortunes from industry and were keen to acquire edgy works by modern and contemporary artists, such as Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne – well before their English counterparts. Interestingly, as the market for Impressionism began to thrive, a more sinister side-industry in ‘fakes’ took hold, and the exhibition includes some of these counterfeit works – one of which will remain unidentified, in order to test visitors’ powers of discernment!

Senior Conservator Lesley Stevenson views Head of a Peasant Woman alongside an x-ray image of the hidden Van Gogh self-portrait. Photograph by Neil Hanna (www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk)
Senior Conservator Lesley Stevenson views ‘Head of a Peasant Woman’ alongside an x-ray image of the hidden Van Gogh self-portrait. Photograph by Neil Hanna (www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk)
Back of Head of a Peasant Woman detail. Photograph by Neil Hanna.
Back of Head of a Peasant Woman, detail. Photograph by Neil Hanna (www.neilhannaphotography.co.uk)

In a remarkable development, a previously-unknown self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh has been discovered, hidden behind his painting Head of a Peasant Woman. The piece, which came to light while National Galleries of Scotland staff prepared works for this exhibition, is only viewable in x-ray, as it is literally stuck behind Head of a Peasant Woman, and separating it without incurring any damage represents a technical challenge for conservators. A specially-constructed lightbox will allow visitors to see the amazing x-ray image that excited conservators when it was first discovered, and was reported worldwide on 14th July 2022.

Tickets are £12/10 (Mon – Fri) £14/12 (Sat – Sun) and £15/13 during August. A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.

Henri Matisse's 'Jazz' collection, the entirety of which is on show, arguably constitutes an exhibition in itself
Henri Matisse’s ‘Jazz’ collection, the entirety of which is on show, arguably constitutes an exhibition in itself.
The opening of the show was accompanied by a double-bassist, echoing Henri Matisse's 'Jazz' collection, on show. In the corner is the x-ray image revealing the 'hidden' Van Gogh work, recently discovered
The opening of the show was accompanied by a double-bassist, echoing Henri Matisse’s ‘Jazz’ collection, above. In the corner is the x-ray image revealing the hitherto-hidden Van Gogh self-portrait, recently discovered.
Henri Matisse’s ‘Jeanette II’, bronze. Each room’s wall is painted a carefully-chosen colour.

Artmag attended the press viewing of the exhibition (28th July). The occasion was accompanied by a double-bassist, echoing Henri Matisse’s ‘Jazz’ collection, the entirety of which is on show, arguably constituting an exhibition in itself!

The exhibition’s curator, Frances Fowle, gave a fascinating talk, commenting on the ideas at the core of the show – the Scottish collectors who acquired Impressionist pieces when the movement was far from in vogue, the extraordinary cases of fraudulent copying that hoodwinked even the most scrupulous cognoscenti, the little-known women who collected and donated Impressionist work, and the development of a revolutionary style quite unlike anything before.

The pieces on show, by some of the undisputed greatest painters in history, are among the art world’s most celebrated works, and the Scottish capital is indeed immensely fortunate to stage a showing of this collection.

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