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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

French Impressionism and the New Green Movement

The knowledgeable research staff at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. tirelessly and passionately seeks to understand particular pieces of art and their relationship to the larger realm of the history of art. The online gallery features extraordinary fine art, antiques and collectibles, some of which are currently in the process of being researched in greater depth. One such piece is Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s delightful, atmospheric print, which embodies what H. H. Arnason identifies as the “lovely dream world” evident in many 19th Century French Impressionist works of art. A bridge is partly hidden by the sweeping brushstrokes of abundant, vibrant, flowering trees, which shade and provide solace for the figure of a man. The mature Spring season is rich with flowers, fields, blue sky and roving clouds, and the print alludes to the “rhythmic” brushstrokes of the original oil on canvas. Impressionistic works in general, make one feel as if gentle springtime winds blow through the scene, keeping the elements of nature in continuous movement. One can imagine the sensual impressions of the redolent flowers, warm sun, and Spring breeze, and all figures are washed in a radiant light.

How might this figure depicted in Renoir’s Impressionist work compare to a modern individual’s perception of nature and society? There is a harmony in this print between so-called “natural” elements and the presence of humankind—the bridge, the fence, the path, the human figure-- and indeed, the painting itself is a human-made, constructed piece. Consider another painting of Renoir, Moulin de la Galette, in which the natural elements find their place in a very humanistic scene.

The sentiments of the Impressionism movement can be found in our present day political, social, and aesthetic ideals, especially as they relate to our ecological concerns. In a current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s piece Moss Wall showcases a wall of reindeer moss in the modern gallery, wedding rich, earthy natural elements with the highly constructed gallery space. As Eliasson asserts: “Your engagement has consequences,” relating personal responsibility to what we choose to be the objects of our attention; indeed, in the words of ecological writers Elim Papadakis and Miranda Schreurs, “The prominence of some [green political] issues appears to follow a pattern of different ‘cycles of attention’” (xvi).

The Impressionists’ whole, complex view of “Nature” harmonizes with our current, vital conversations and analyses of how the “Green Movement” concerns not the exclusion of people from the “wilderness”, but an acceptance of the human form and ecologically responsible human creations as part of this natural world. Richard Brettel speaks to this complex, all-encompassing view of “nature” in his essay “The Impressionist Landscape and the Image of France”, identifying the Impressionists’ concept of nature as

“…the totality of the visible universe, a positivist view in which man and his works were seen as an integral part of a natural whole. Trains, boats, figures, factories, houses, fields, trees, piles of sand, machines—virtually every kind of form visible in the France of their time can be found somewhere in their landscapes. For… many intellectuals of mid-century France, nature was the world apart from man and his corruptions. For the Impressionists, nature was everything one could see” (Belloli 37).

Here is the Impressionists’ view of a grand, generous, all-encompassing natural world, which finds resonance with our current time. For example, consider the potential harmonies of human architectural design and plant life, such as the glorious rooftop garden on Chicago’s City Hall, photographed in the article “Green Roofs” in National Geographic this year. For the Impressionists, “Nature was everything one can see”; our ideas concerning conservation and preservation must address this larger sense of “Nature” as well. In the New York Times article “Grass Roots Rising”, Paul Hawken speaks to this larger scope of attention and care: “Sustainability, ensuring the future of life on earth, is…the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all.”

If we as a society can believe in the sentiment of Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin that “The world will be saved by beauty”, then we must place our attention on preserving beauty itself; in this way, the preservation of the natural world—trees, rivers, animals—must expand to include human creation—in which art certainly plays a central role. Indeed, MIR Appraisal Services can offer knowledgeable advice concerning how best to protect and conserve your fine art and personal property, and the MIR online gallery showcases a stunning collection of fine art.

MIR Appraisal Services, Inc.
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: (312) 814-8510

Works Cited

Arnason, H. H. History of Modern Art, 4th edition. New York: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1998, p. 52.

Belloli, Andrea P. A., ed. A Day in the Country: Impressionism and the French Landscape. Brettel, Richard. “The Impressionist Landscape and the Image of France.” Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984, p. 37.

Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “Green Roofs.” National Geographic. May 2009.

Papadakis, Elim and Schreurs, Miranda. Historical Dictionary of the Green Movement, second edition. The Scarecrow Press: Lanham, 2007, p. xvi.

Sullivan, Robert. “Grass Roots Rising.” New York Times, 5 August 2007.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.