By Nidia Trejo, 17, Downtown Magnets HS
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Georges Seurat's Woman Strolling

Courtesy of The Getty Center

After learning about art history in an AP class I wanted a chance to go and appreciate what I’d rushed through last year. What better way to do it than by seeing the work of famous artists, Impressionists, whose work was so fresh and different from artists before them, in the exhibit Defining Modernity: European Drawings at the Getty?

I could hardly wait to see the work of these artists. They rebelled against classic traditions of painting, causing so much controversy and disappointment in 19th century Europe. The art in the exhibit is so exciting to look at because it marked the beginning of artists making their own assumptions about art instead of sticking with what was expected.

Artists of that time were expected to hide their brushstrokes to make their paintings look real and life-like. However, Impressionists painted loosely, showing every brushstroke, obsessively played with light, using complementary colors like blue and orange to shade, and based their paintings on their first impressions of an image. It was the biggest art revolution since the Renaissance, but the exhibit is not limited to only their work. Art that came before the Impressionists is also in the exhibit to show how this artistic rebellion became a threat to European expectations.   

Post-Impressionist Vincent Van Gogh’s Lilies radiates off its frame, demanding attention as its lilies are unconventionally outlined in black paint. I was awestruck by its pastel lavender, yellow, and green colors that emerged.  I used to think that a bold outline destroys art, but it actually enlivens it because it creates more emphasis on the object.

Georges Seurat’s drawing; Woman Strolling was mysterious as a woman stands in a silhouetted profile. The sketch looked grainy. I was curious about the woman’s features, so I got closer thinking that I would see more detail, but instead I only saw black dots. When Seurat, also a post-Impressionist, painted he used his own technique of making tiny dots to form his figures known as pointillism, but when he sketched he used textured paper to give a similar effect. I stood back to look at the drawing as a whole and I realized Seurat’s authentic style and brilliance in achieving it. I was pulled to all of his pieces because he used dots to create a recognizable image.

The Getty is also showing leading Impressionist, Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere. Staring at the painting I saw that Impressionist artists didn’t just rely on loose brushstrokes and first impressions. They sought to get messages across. Impressionist artist didn’t just paint messily because they didn’t go to school. They did it to show that art isn’t limited to one idea. Manet idealizes the bartender’s figure to echo the shape of the champagne bottles and paints a hazy mirror reflection of the activity in the bar, blending classical and impressionist ideas. This piece shouts to the art world that two completely different methods could merge to create a great astounding beauty.

I saw individual defiance in each artist’s work that made it that much more dazzling to see. Until the 19th century Europe had only seen one type of art, classical, from Greek and Roman influences, so Impressionists were rejected.

What’s so interesting about this artistic rebellion is that it isn’t full of anger and frustration released onto a canvas; it is a blooming of new ideas and creative expression. Go to this exhibit if you are curious to see art that was considered ugly during the 1800s. Whether you know about art or not, it’s still fun to see because it’ll make you begin to question what art really is.

The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Admission is free
Parking is $8
Both Defining Modernity: European Drawings and Edouard Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere are showing until Sept. 9.
Open: Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.