Exhibition Ended

A Taste for Impressionism | Modern French Art from Millet to Matisse

This exhibition has now ended!

About

The remarkable story of how Scotland became home to one of the world’s greatest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. The exhibition also included the incredible discovery of a lost Van Gogh portrait.

World famous paintings by a stellar cast including Van Gogh, Degas and Gauguin feature throughout, offered visitors a rare chance to delve into this little-known aspect of Scotland’s cultural history. Other highlights included seven works by Claude Monet from across his career and, for the first time, the full set of Matisse’s vibrant Jazz prints.

The most exciting highlight was perhaps the Van Gogh self-portrait. Our conservation team has discovered what is almost certainly a previously unknown self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh. Believed to be a first for a UK institution, the mysterious image was revealed by an x-ray taken when art conservators examined Van Gogh’s Head of a Peasant Woman of 1885 ahead of this exhibition. Watch our video about the discovery below or read more about it on our blog page.

The exhibition shared fascinating stories about how visionary Scottish collectors invested in, what were then, innovative and radical artworks and reveals how they found their way into Scotland’s national collection.

Among the exhibition highlights were several of our world-class holdings, such as Gauguin’s Vision of the Sermon and Degas’s Portrait of Diego Martelli, as well as pre-Impressionist masterpieces such as Pissarro’s The Marne at Chennevières. The fact that works of such renown and quality are held in Scotland is down to two chance factors — a series of progressive purchases by previous National Galleries of Scotland Directors in the first half of the twentieth century, and the generosity of benefactors such as Sir Alexander and Rosalind Maitland — both reflecting the enlightened state of Scottish taste in the inter-war period and beyond.

As the market for Impressionism began to thrive, a sinister side industry in ‘fakes’ took hold, culminating in two major scandals in the early 1930s around the forging of works by Millet and Van Gogh. In keeping with the true spirit of the age, A Taste for Impressionism included some counterfeit works which will remain unidentified to test visitors’ powers of detection.

A Taste for Impressionism spanned the entire exhibition space of the Royal Scottish Academy building, charting how Impressionism emerged from the indulgence of the Romantic period to become a radical movement, through to the price-shattering auction phenomenon it is today.

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