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birth of impressionism

First Impressions: Birth of Impressionism at the de Young

Immortalized on dorm room walls of every undergrad from here to Beijing, it could be said that Monet's water lilies have entered the dreaded realm of cliché. But in the late 19th century, his work was revolutionary. Critics in 1874 found dappled sunlight and thick swabs of bright paint painfully offensive, and those who slathered such rot on their canvases were relegated to the fringes of the art world.

But there are no water lilies in Birth of Impressionism, the new exhibit that opened at the De Young this week. Instead, there are turkeys, a surprising number of dead fish (still lifes aren't all chrysanthemums and lemons, people), cherubs riding dolphins, and naked women rising from seashells (as naked women are wont to do).

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