Galleries - December 2015

unknown works beneath the present ones – for example an entirely new work beneath Balla’s 1912 masterpiece ‘The hand of a Violinist’, previously only known from contemporary photographs. Pierre-Eugène Montézin was born in 1874, the year of the first Impressionist exhibition, when Monet’s ‘Impression, Sunrise’ occasioned the derisive critical abuse that gave the movement its name. Montézin then went on to become the unrepentant Impressionist painter of the 20th century, continuing to paint idyllic rural landscape scenes right up to his death in 1946, and long after the original movement had passed into art history. He achieved huge fame and honour in the process, culminating in the Médaille d'honneur at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1932, but has, in the triumph of post-war Modernism, since become largely forgotten. All of which makes Stoppenbach & Delestre ‘s exhibition, the first of its kind in this country, an interesting moment for a reappraisal of Montézin’s art. Born, like Pierre- Auguste Renoir, in the heart of Paris, it was trips into the Île-de- France countryside with his father, a lace maker and therefore designer also, that fired his ambition to paint the landscape. Its slow moving rivers and luminous skies provided the perfect themes for his paintings, which he was, by his early twenties, already submitting to the Salon, where he was finally accepted in 1903. He was to show there almost continuously for the next 40 years except for a brief period when he volunteered for the army and won a Médaille Militaire for his service in the Battles of the Meuse. None of that horror is to be found in Montézin’s work and it may well be that during the interwar period, his idyllic vision was rather more what people wanted, but that still takes nothing away from the lyrical tenderness of these lovely paintings or the fact that, as he once observed to the critic Louis Vauxcelles, “The subjects of a painter’s art are less in front of the artist’s eyes than in his heart.” It is some measure of a seaside town’s arrival as an artistic destination when one of its galleries can mount a show like ‘Dream Visions’ in the depths of winter. But then Sladers Yard in Bridport has been breaking the mould of what such galleries can do for well over a decade now, with poetry readings, music, talks and a top notch restaurant just adding to the fun and games. At its heart though lies a seriously thought through exhibition programme, of which this is a very good example. It brings together a number of excellent artists who have regularly shown in the gallery over the years – and one or two who haven’t, in what the exhibition’s subtitle charmingly describes as ‘Alfred Stockham and his Circle.’ All of them in short, live and work in and around Bristol, many also being associated with the Royal West of England Academy, and several, like David Inshaw and Stockham himself, have also been painting in and around Bridport itself for many decades now. The show is pure delight – full of space, sea, light and colour – a nice counter, it has to be said, to any possibility of SAD syndrome. Nicholas Usherwood from left: U mberto Boccioni ‘Modern Idol’ 1911 Estorick Collection Alfred Stockham ‘Red Sail, Broads’ detail Sladers Yard Pierre-Eugène Montézin ‘L’embarcadère de l’Hôtel Régina sur le Grand Canal’ detail Stoppenbach & Delestre M C Escher ‘Drawing Hands’ 1948 Dulwich Picture Gallery Ai Weiwei ‘Coloured Vases’ 2006, detail, Neolithic vases (5000-3000 BC) with industrial paint dimensions variable; courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio © Ai Weiwei, the Royal Academy Gerald Wilde ‘Spaceman’, October Gallery DECEMBER 2015 GALLERIES 17 A true impressionist A perfect circle