Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond at de Young

At the de Young museum, you will find 120 late Impressionist paintings on loan from the Musée d’Orsay. As with any art exhibition, you will find beauty, history, and inspiration, yet the de Young’s newest collection is simply breathtaking.

“Breathtaking” may sound trite, but I do not think language has the power to capture the pure romance that the Impressionist collection has to offer. Indeed, the number of times I heard my fellow art-viewers whisper “wow” testified to the language-transcending power of these pieces.

Artworks from Renoir to Manet, from Seurat to Degas, are on display, making any art lover’s heart melt. While walking into the exhibit feels like strolling down a Parisian boulevard, the rooms that contain the rich, painted history truly transcend the real world.

Seeing the artworks up-close is a real gift—each brush stroke is visible, yet the painterly qualities of each work do not take away from its enchantment nor the phantasmagoric language it uses to communicate its historical context and humanist commentaries.

Every artwork in this collection is a visual feast, but a handful of pieces simply made me swoon:

Sargent's La Carmencita. Image source.

La Carmencita, John Singer Sargent, 1890
This woman, a Spanish dancer, is the perfect combination of elegant and sass. She is gorgeous and regal and would surely be a fun friend to have. Apart from the personality of the portrait’s subject, the artwork itself is visually appealing due to the color and tonal contrast between the dancer and the foreground.

Gauguin's Tahitian Women on the Beach. Image source.

Tahitian Women on the Beach, Paul Gauguin, 1891
This artwork is extremely warm—the color combination is perfect. While the piece is color-tonally warm, the subjects are wonderfully complex, both mysterious and solemn. Lounging on a balmy beach, the women are affected yet not approachable. The contrast between warmth and somberness makes for a fascinating painting.

Lacombe's Violet Wave. Image source.

Violet Wave, Georges Lacombe, 1895-96
I find this piece to be quite impactful. There is a strong relationship between the viewer and the painting. While viewers can get lost in the ocean that is before their eyes, they cannot escape the oncoming rush of emotions. The wave in the painting seems to have movement, and water always encourages reflection. Though not human-focused, Lacombe’s work definitely has resonance.

Degas' Dancers Climbing the Stairs. Image source.

Dancers Climbing the Stairs, Edgar Degas, 1886-1890
This painting is purely magical. The scene is one that is euphoric and quaint, yet there is a sense of liveliness and urgency in the actions of the girls. Degas’s flirtation with angles and the elegant detailing of the dancers’ dresses are winning elements. This painting made me smile.

Van Gogh's The Artist's Bedroom at Arles. Image source.

The Artist’s Bedroom at Arles, Vincent van Gogh, 1888
This artwork by van Gogh was definitely a favorite of my companion’s and mine. The piece itself is so glorious because of the colors and the brushstrokes. The scene itself is so banal, but how it is actually depicted is incredibly impressive. Van Gogh’s artwork is playful, if not delightful.

Van Gogh's Portrait of the Artist. Image source.

Portrait of the Artist, Vincent van Gogh, 1887
Though it is entirely devoid of naturalistic qualities, van Gogh’s portrait affords viewers a connection to him and his work. We may not have been there when he created this artwork but, with each visible brushstroke, it is easy for viewers to feel van Gogh’s presence.

Rousseau's Snake Charmer. Image source.

Snake Charmer, Henri Rousseau, 1907
Rousseau’s work stood out most due to the rich greens of the color palette and because of the jungle setting, instead of urban scene, which so often characterized the paintings in this exhibit. While individuals may think of the metaphors behind and social implications of the work, Rousseau’s jungle scene—already fascinating on its own—was refreshing and added variation.

These pieces had a specific impact on me, but every piece in the exhibit was wonderful. However, no computer image can compare to encountering these paintings in real life. A computer screen is not the same miraculous window into history.

The Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond exhibit opened September 25 and will stay at the museum until January 18, 2011. Students can purchase tickets in advance for $16 (add on a $1 online service charge) or pay $21 the day of the visit. A ticket to the exhibit will also get you general access to the rest of the de Young’s exhibitions.

Scott Hovdey
BARE Reporter


  1. wow i'm really loving the ballet one! i love the pastel and soft colors. so pretty. I can't wait til De Young has the Balenciaga retrospective next year! so excited.
    btw, I love your blog, I hope I can be a part of BARE next semester :), I go to UCB too.

  2. Like that you reviewed the exhibit, and thanks for the photos. Need to tell you that "impactful" is NOT a word. Thanks,