After Impressionism is one of a number of recent exhibitions presented as a rethink of the 20th century art movement. But the presence of blockbusters like Picasso and van Gogh belie its real intention to be a crowd-pleaser. Paul Gauguin still gets more credit than any of his “primitive”, non-European influences; Tahiti and Japan are relegated to reference points in sculptures, masks, and kimonos. While wall captions detail the great contributions of women artists, we see only one or two of them – the well-known ones, like Käthe Kollwitz and Paula Modersohn-Becker. After Impressionism uses contemporary rhetoric to tell a conventional history. It’s a comfortable show about the forefathers of contemporary art – and a missed opportunity to change the minds of those who can afford the £24 entry fee.
After Impressionism: Inventing Modern Art is on view at the National Gallery in London until 13 August 2023.
Photograph Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), 1888, by Paul Gauguin © National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh