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Mace & Crown | April 30, 2017

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Monet, van Gogh and More On Display at the Chrysler Museum

Monet, van Gogh and More On Display at the Chrysler Museum
Emily Wood
Contributing Writer

The new exhibit “The Agrarian Ideal in Late 19th Century Art” pulls you through time and back to the late 1800s as you walk through the Chrysler Museum. The pastel colors that splash the walls not only contrast but blend with the European and American art dancing on the walls. The exhibit includes rural paintings and landscape works from French artists such as Monet, Pissaro, Sisley and Gauguin.

These painters had been portraying impressionist visions of city life almost chaotically for years, and in the Late 19th century they turned to the countryside. Monet went to Giverny for inspiration in 1883, Pissaro captured Éragny in 1884 and Sisley overtook the beauty of Moret-sur-Loing in 1880 brush stroke by brush stroke. It is believed that these painters were trying to find a pure subject for their paintings among the war-torn cities of Europe and America.

“Meules, fin de l’été (Haystacks, Late Summer)” by Claude Monet is currently on loan by Chrysler from the Museé d’Orsay in Paris. “Haystacks” is part of a 30 painting series that Monet worked on through the winter of 1890-1891. He also has series of poplar trees, water lilies and the designs of Rouen Cathedral.

“Haystacks” along with “The Wheat Field behind St. Paul’s Hospital, St. Rémy” by Vincent van Gogh make up quite the exhibit themselves. The beauty van Gogh alone brought to the world while using his pain as a medium has been enough to drop the world to its knees more than once. These two works do have help from “The Loss of Virginity” by Paul Gauguin, “Song of the Lark” by Winslow Homer and a handful of other painters.

“The Wheat Field behind St. Paul’s Hospital, St. Rémy” is an interesting piece in itself because it was painted from the same view as the famous “Starry Night.” And although the paintings have their similarities in landscape, the shocking differences between the two are beautiful beyond words. The two paintings were painted from the vantage point of van Gogh’s hospital room at a mental hospital he voluntarily checked himself into in his later years preceding his death.

Homer himself lived in New York and was a part of Harper’s Magazine in 1876 through the Civil War Era. He brought an American spin to the awe-striking admiration of the field workers. He gave his paintings an American spin off of the French Impressionist phase, by inadvertently glorifying the American farmer as well.

Paul Gauguin moved from Paris to the country province of France. He worked on “The Loss of Virginity” from 1890-1891 while he was in Brittany. The painting itself took away from the fertility aspect of wheat and gave it the more hopeless cycle of life theme; the piece is morosely beautiful.

The theme of wheat in this exhibit is symbolic in showing the fertility and cycle of life, something that is forgotten easily in the city. It is rumored that “Haystacks” accidentally showed this symbolism and artists everywhere took up the symbol and made it their own. Van Gogh, Gauguin and Homer all portray their own versions of the symbolism of purity in wheat fields.

The Chrysler Museum of Art is a stress-relieving destination for everyone from college students to accountants. It is in Downtown Norfolk at 245 W Olney Road, their latest exhibit is attracting plenty of onlookers by populating the walls of the hallowed ground of the building. If you find yourself downtown with an itch to see some art or a strong need for stress relief, go and see “The Agrarian Ideal” while it is here. Admission is free. Remember, art is not just for artists, art is for everyone.