Impressionist Decorations: The Birth of Modern Décor is the gallery’s first exhibition to focus on the objects and interiors the artists created.
As well as works on canvas, it will include other decorative items such as tapestries, ceramics and fans by figures such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro.
More than 80 works by masters including Degas, Mary Cassatt, Cézanne, Manet and Gustave Caillebotte are also included, many on loan from major international collections such as the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and the Dallas Museum of Art.
Organised by the National Gallery and the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie in Paris, the exhibition will cover five decades of Impressionism, ranging from the 1860s to the 1920s.
The gallery is banking on Monet’s pulling power to draw the crowds after the devastating impact of the pandemic on this year’s exhibitions. A 1999 Monet retrospective at the Royal Academy became the most popular art exhibition in British history, welcoming a record-breaking 813,000 visitors over three months. The RA even brought in 24-hour opening to cope with demand.
In 2015, his Water Lilies series were voted the nation’s favourite paintings, ahead of The Hay Wain by Constable and van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
The show, which will open in September 2021, aims to show how the Impressionists produced ornamental works as well as the plein-air canvases painted outdoors for which they are most celebrated today.
It will include objects such as Pissarro’s small tiles and items linked to the development of Monet’s colossal Water Lilies works which he called his “grandes décorations”.
Visitors will be able to experience a largely unexplored facet of the Impressionists’ work, which experts believe helped in the development of their most famous paintings.
The gallery said the Impressionists initially created the works in the hope of earning a living, then as a springboard for their careers, through which they redefined the fundamental idea of decoration and the “decorative”.
The exhibition will come to the National Gallery from the Musée d’Orsay, where it will be on display from April next year.