Fresh air and light

26th May 1995 at 01:00
Young students of painting are always told how great was the opposition to the Impressionists but rarely ever, if at all, are they shown pictures by the then approved opposition.

The subtitle of the Hayward Gallery's exhibition Landscape in France: Impressionism and its rivals declares an attempt to redress this balance, presenting in one place a much wider range of French landscape practice over three decades than ever before.

The visual impact should not be underestimated. Jules Noel's "Port of Brest", a fussily detailed example of the near-exhausted tradition of typographical painting shown at the 1864 Salon, is in close proximity to Camille Pissarro's very generalised, totally un-picturesque "The Banks of the Marne", painted in the same year.

But between these two is Daubigny's "Villerville-sur-Mer" exhibited at the same Salon, as unemphatic as the Pissarro and possibly the first large exhibition picture executed entirely out of doors: a practice central to Impressionist landscapes.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, attentive students will easily discern divergent landscape interests within the Impressionists group and not least because rarely seen works by Berthe Morisot or the little-known Armand Guillaumin are included. Already in the early 70s, Renoir's attraction to dappled light effects is as evident in "Chemin a Louveciennes" as is Monet's growling preoccupation with nature's more chromatic aspects in "Chemin Creux".

By the time of the first group exhibitions when Sisley's technique was at its most transparent and Pissarro was briefly concerned with industrial developments along the rural Seine, Cezanne was well on his way to rediscovering something of Poussin's formal grandeur while painting plein air.

With an introductory talk by the selector of the exhibition, John House, the special teachers' evening is sure to direct attention to some major issues raised by the show, such as subject matter and its treatment, studio and plein air painting or public and private art and the ways in which these relate to the polarities of large-scale, highly-finished Salon pieces bought by the state for regional museums and small-scale, sketchily-executed ones bought by collectors for domestic setting from specialist dealers.

Gallery talks throughout the exhibition period, and, above all, the one-day conference jointly organised with the Courtauld Institute early next month, offer both broader and deeper understanding but teachers preparing school visits will find the background material and focus sheets on individual works included in the information pack invaluable.

Primary school teachers will surely want to encourage as many children as possible to take advantage of the late summer workshops, A Tour de France, particularly now that the Hayward has not only acquired new education staff but studio space too.

Hayward Gallery, London SE1 until August 28. For further information ring 0171 921 0951

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