Hong KongPioneers 先驅
Lévy Gorvy presents Pioneers, an exhibition celebrating the achievements of the avant-garde that emerged in Europe in the first decades of the twentieth century. Pioneers offers the ability to view exceptional paintings that defined art in the modern era.
Paul Cézanne’s Esquisse de baigneurs (1900–02), from the Post-Impressionist’s series of works depicting nude bathers, represents the culmination of his experiments that sought to integrate figures and landscape. This is an exploratory work in which classically delineated bodies move harmoniously within a setting of woods, water, and sky. Patches of vibrant color and wavering linear brushstrokes over a brilliant white ground render a highly structured composition, epitomizing Cézanne’s development of an entirely new visual language—one that proved revolutionary for successive generations of artists.
Also painted at the turn of the century, L’Eglise Saint-Jacques (1901) by Camille Pissarro is an exquisite example of the Impressionist’s urban views, here focused on the forms of the Church of Saint-Jacques in Normandy. Translating the buttresses and towers of its Gothic architecture into dappled brushstrokes, the painting speaks of Pissarro’s admiration of Claude Monet’s Rouen Cathedral series from the 1890s. Unlike Monet, however, Pissarro situates the cathedral as part of the urban fabric, including the stalls and bustling crowds of the town’s market day.
Maurice de Vlaminck’s La Grenouillère (1904–05) embody the innovative use of color and form that would make him one of the principal figures of Fauvism. It displays a scene from La Grenouillère, or “the frog pond,” a popular boating and bathing resort on the Seine River west of Paris, which was made famous as an artistic subject by Monet and Auguste Renoir in the 1860s. Vlaminck takes a familiar sight—a couple enjoying refreshment at a waterside café—and utterly transforms it with vivid, thickly applied hues accentuated by boldly abstracted shapes and black outlines. Another highlight of Pioneers exhibition is Le Baiser (1924) by Joan Miró, a pivotal work that defined the Catalan painter’s embarkation on a fully abstract, biomorphic style. Pared down to colored lines and shapes on open ground that arc, enclose, and penetrate ovoid and hourglass forms, Le Baiser exemplifies Miró’s radical reconception of the possibilities of painting to evoke microscopic and macrocosmic scales as well as the inner life of the mind.
Other key works in the exhibition include extraordinary modern still lifes and figure paintings by artists such as Marc Chagall, Giorgio Morandi, Pablo Picasso, and Kees Van Dongen. Representing the pioneering spirit of these innovative artists, each painting in Pioneers remains revelatory today.
Installation view, Pioneers, Lévy Gorvy Hong Kong, 2021. Photo: Kitmin Lee