Fresh Air: Northern Impressionism

January 17, 2024 - May 5, 2024
Wed 17 Jan - Sun 5 May
17 Jan
5 May

Fresh Air: Northern Impressionism
Unique touring exhibition at Singer Laren from 17January

A breath of fresh air will be blowing through MuseumSinger Laren from 17 January to 5 May 2024. Theunique touring exhibition Fresh Air, created incollaboration with Museum Kunst der Westküste(Alkersum/Föhr) and the NiedersächsischesLandesmuseum (Hanover) will feature a selection ofleading works by German, Danish and Dutchimpressionists. After impressionism first emerged inFrance, the new style spread rapidly throughoutEurope. Singer Laren will focus on the Netherlands,Germany and Denmark, which had their owndistinctive form of impressionism. The fresh greens,soft light and constantly changing cloudy skies in thesecountries created a different atmosphere. Theexhibition will include work by Max Liebermann, FritzMackensen, Lovis Corinth and Max Slevogt fromGermany, Anna and Michael Ancher, Peder SeverinKrøyer and Viggo Johansen of Denmark, and Dutchartists Johan Barthold Jongkind, Jo Koster, AntonMauve, George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israels and JanToorop. 
This is the first time that the work of impressionists from thesethree neighbouring countries is to be presented in combination.The exhibition is thematically structured, and highlights subjectsthat played an important role in impressionism: Light, Countryside,City, Garden, Travels and Winter. The exhibition will show howFrench impressionism spread through northern Europe. It will beaccompanied by a catalogue (published by Waanders Publishing)written by curators from the three museums: Katrin Hippel(Alkersum/Föhr), Nadja Kehe and Thomas Andratschke (Hanover)and Anne van Lienden (Laren).

Paris: seedbed of experimentation and innovation
When a group of young French painters first showed their work inParis in 1874, one critic dubbed them the ‘impressionists’. In thelate nineteenth century, Paris was a seedbed of experimentationand innovation. More and more progressive artists were keen tocast off the constrictive straitjacket of the Academy. Theimpressionists focused on rapid, sketchy rendition of the light at aparticular moment of the day. They took their subjects fromeveryday life – ranging from intimate domestic environments tomodern city scenes – and also from nature and, above all, the sea.Karl Hagemeister, White Poppy, 1881, oil on canvas, 78.7 x 116.5 cm, Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover 
The advent of the modern in Germany
Thanks to the efforts of a number of progressive art critics,collectors and museum directors, from the 1880s onwards the workof the French impressionists was shown in Germany. One of theseprogressive champions was Alfred Lichtwark who, in his role asdirector of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, purchased paintings byCourbet, Monet, Manet and Renoir. Lichtwark was a friend of artistMax Liebermann. A keen traveller who enjoyed success at the ParisSalon, Liebermann was able to build a large network in the artworld, and was well aware of the latest developments, which in turninfluenced his own choice of subject and style of painting. MaxSlevogt and Lovis Corinth underwent a similar development fromacademic training to impressionism.

The light of Skagen
At the time when impressionism emerged, many otherdevelopments were taking place. They included industrialisation.Artists were therefore able to travel more easily, and the firstartists’ colonies began to appear in rural areas, such as in Laren andWorpswede in Germany, and by the sea, like Skagen in Denmark. 
Artists from all over Denmark travelled to the old fishing village forits extraordinary light and its long, wide beaches with pale yellowsand. The first painters to settle there in 1872 were HolgerDrachmann and Karl Madsen, quickly followed by Laurits Tuxen,Michael Ancher and Viggo Johansen and, later, by Kristian Krohgand Peder Severin Krøyer. The latter became the undisputed keyfigure in the artistic life of Denmark. Influenced by Frenchimpressionism, he introduced a new approach, and became the firstpainter to depictSkagen as a fashionable bathing resort wherewealthy women in modern reform dress could stroll to their hearts’desire (see illustration above).

The Netherlands: the Hague School rules
In the Netherlands, the outdoor painters of the Hague School setthe tone from around 1870 onwards. One of their leading lights wasJozef Israëls, who regularly visited Paris and took part in the Salon,where he encountered the work of the French painters of theBarbizon School. Shortly after the impressionists in Paris embracedtheir nickname, the word ‘impressionistisch’ was first used in theNetherlands to describe artworks – mainly naturalistic landscapes –that sought to create a certain impression or atmosphere. 
The Dutch impressionists repeatedly attempted to capture oncanvas the constantly changing atmospheric conditions at a specificmoment of the day. Later in life, the painter Jan HendrikWeissenbruch explained in an interview what he strove for in hiswork: ‘Light and air: that is the skill! I can never get enough light intomy paintings, particularly in the skies’. While the Hague Schoolartists continued to use naturalistic colours, their brushworkbecame coarser and more sketchy over time, as the ‘unfinished’gradually came to be more accepted.

The artists from these three countries were also in contact witheach other. Jozef Israëls brought German painter Max Liebermannto Laren; Liebermann loved the Dutch landscape. These two artistsand Jan Toorop were the three most important links betweenFrench impressionism, and Dutch, German and Danish impressionism.

Fresh Air: Northern Impressionism will be at Singer Laren from 17 January to5 May, after which it will open at Museum Kunst der Westküste in June, andmove on to the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum in Hanover, where it willshow from November 2024 to May 2025.

Order tickets here for the lecture on FRESH AIR, IMPRESSIONISM OF THE NORTH