Sunday, July 18, 2010

Impressionism and Protestantism

I just read a review of the Birth of Impressionism exhibit at De Young Museum in San Francisco by Nick Moore for The Daily Californian. It was not an insightful review and its comments on the quality of the exhibit is not very on target either. However, it did say something interesting at the end of the review:
These painters found inspiration in the ordinary scenes of life - the cow pastures, the train stations, the crowds of people (like those packed into a busy museum) that we likely take for granted, or even find annoying. Perhaps this beautification of quotidian life is why these paintings resonate so strongly, and why the crowds remain so large.
This paragraph reminded me an internal dialogue I had when I was in the exhibit. As I mentioned in my earlier blog entry, "the exhibit was very well curated and it was not designed with showcasing blockbusters only; rather, it went length to explain how Impressionism came into fruition." The emergence of Impressionism is very similar to the emergence of protestantism to me.

At the time of the birth of impressionism, the French Académie des Beaux-Arts dictated what should be painted, both in content and style, and what people should appreciate, through its coveted Prix de Rome and its annual Salon de Paris exhibit.

"Impressionists" came, armed with a new style and new subject matters, and challenged the hegemony of the Académie. After being rejected by the Salon, they staged their own exhibits, appealed to the viewers directly. Therefore, they rejected not only the doctrine and the priestly intermediary of the Académie as well. Hence the analogy to the rebellion of the protestants against the rigidity of the catholic establishment.

Awakening / 喚醒 / Wecken

Awakening © Matthew Felix Sun

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