MFA organizes contest displaying Boston’s love for impressionism

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As the European Impressionist gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) shuts its doors for renovation, the window to another exhibit opens. This past weekend, the MFA unveiled its newest display, “Boston Loves Impressionism.”

Visitors of all ages came to spend their Valentine’s Day celebrating the opening of the exhibit, filling the gallery with lovers and friends to admire classic masterpieces. The gallery is unique to the museum in the fact that all of the paintings on display were chosen by voters via social media. For the month of January, art enthusiasts everywhere were invited to vote for their top 30 favorite impressionist paintings to be displayed to the public, rather than placed in storage until the renovations were finished.

(Photo by Hayley Peabody)

The contest received about 40,000 votes from the Boston public, as well as voters from across the country.  To add a special touch, the three pieces with the most votes would be displayed at the entrance of the gallery, and the top 10 would all be marked with hearts in the description beside the piece.

In third place was Edward Degas’ “14-Year Old Dancer,” a statue cast in bronze with silk and gauze trappings. One voter commented on the piece saying, “Degas! It’s one of the first pieces of art I ever completely fell head over heels in love with as a little girl.”

The second place piece was Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies,” an oil painting that is known as one of his most famous works. Claiming first place with over 4,000 votes was Vincent Van Gogh’s, “House at Auvers.”

“Monet painted looking outward. Van Gogh looking inward,” said voter Jordan Spears as he remarked on the winning piece.

Along with 30 of the most popular impressionist paintings, the exhibit also features letters written by Monet, original exhibition catalogs from the early 20th century, and five impressionist paintings loaned to the museum by local art dealer Scott M. Black.

Although the exhibit is brand new, impressionism is not a fresh concept to the city of Boston. In fact, Boston initially was more interested in the movement than the French.

The MFA has been acquiring impressionist style pieces since its early beginnings, when the prices of the frames rivaled the value of the treasures they would encase. Along with the museum being the first to showcase several impressionists such as Monet and Caillebotte, Bostonians are known for multiple, key gifts to the museum of impressionist style.

One of these gifts was from a wealthy Brookline family that donated a two part gift of 57 paintings strong in French impressionist style. As a result of Boston’s strong, continual attachment to the movement, the MFA owns the largest collection of impressionist works outside of France.

The exhibit itself is a work of art in the way that it tells the story of Boston’s evolving taste for impression. It provides visitors with a way to look at how the art of the past still touches the people of this city today.

As curator Emily Beeny said, “Impressionism can still seem shockingly modern.” The exhibit will be on display until renovation of the original impressionist wing is completed in June of 2014.

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