French Impressionism at the NGV

Jun 28, 2021
  • Article by Charlotte Huston

In an international exclusive, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is presenting a major exhibition of more than 100 masterworks of French Impressionism in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA).

Open now as part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition series, French Impressionism features works by Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassett and more – including 79 that have never-before-been exhibited in Australia.

Pierre Auguste Renoir, French 1841–1919. The Seine at Chatou, 1881, oil on canvas 73.3 x 92.4cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of Arthur Brewster Emmons.
Photography © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Speaking about the exhibition, NGV director Tony Ellwood describes the paintings as “beloved world-wide” for their “artistic innovation and visual curiosity” as well as for their use of colour.

“This exhibition gives audiences the extraordinary opportunity to study more than 100 masterworks up-close,” he says.

“Allowing them to discover the truly revolutionary origins of this important moment in modern art history.”

Berthe Morisot, French 1841–95. White flowers in a bowl 1885, oil on canvas 46.0 x 55.0 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Bequest of John T. Spaulding Photography © Museum of Fine
Arts, Boston.


French Impressionism charts the trajectory of the late-19th century artistic movement, highlighting the key milestones and figures at the centre of this period of experimentation and revolution.

The exhibition also evokes the artistic energy and intellectual dynamism of the period, placing emphasis on the thoughts and observations of the artist themselves, and revealing the social connections, artistic influences and personal relationships that united the group of radical practitioners at the centre of this new movement.

Claude Monet, French 1840–1926. Antibes, afternoon effect 1888, oil on canvas 66.0 x 82.5 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of Samuel Dacre Bush. Photography © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Showcased thematically across 10 sections, the exhibition opens with early works by Monet, Eugène Boudin and painters of the Barbizon School.

Moving deeper through the rooms, audiences can experience the hallmarks of Impressionism, including its distinctive brushwork, unique points of view, arresting use of colour and landmarks, from the streets of Paris to the Normandy coast and the south of France.

Installation view of French Impressionism from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy.

French Impressionism concludes with a display of 16 canvases by Monet, arranged in an immersive oval gallery reminiscent of his famous Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris.

You can catch the exhibition about Melbourne’s NGV from 25 June – 3 October 2021.

Visit the official NGV website to plan your visit.

Another angle of the exhibition. Photo: Tom Ross.

Lead photo: Sean Fennessy.

Last month, the NGV announced the winning design for its annual Architecture Commission, which was penned by Taylor Knights and James Carey.

The pink pond “evocative of Australia’s inland salt lakes” will be on display at the gallery from November 2021.

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