What is it about French Impressionism that makes it – arguably – the most loved and enduring of all artistic movements? The answer must surely lie in what one could call its imperfect prettiness. Impressionists like Monet, Degas and Sisley were interested in light, and in rendering a subjective 'impression' of the real world.
They depicted the everyday rather than classical or religious subjects. Their viewpoints were, for the time, 'weird'. They believed brushstrokes were more important than line and contour. It was all too much for the official 'Salon' of 19th Century Paris. But people loved the Impressionists' messy celebration of light, colour and texture.
They still do. None more so than Bruce Yardley, who lovingly maintains the French Impressionist tradition in his effervescent body of work.
Like his heroes, Bruce paints exclusively in oils, and chooses as his subjects architecture, cafe life, rivers, sun-dappled interiors and landscape. He says: "What I especially like about the Impressionists is their willingness to paint almost everything that passed before their eyes. There was no longer a hierarchy of worthiness in subject matter.'
But go deeper and you realise the real subject matter for both the Impressionists and for Bruce is light. In this collection, you see it in the late afternoon sunshine of Basilica San Marco: Evening Glow, the dancing aquatic reflections of Entrance to the Grand Canal or the reflective rainy pavements of Pall Mall Reflections. And of course, Bruce finds such beauty not just in France and Italy, but also London and the handsome west country stone squares of Bath, where he now lives.
Bruce Yardley was born in 1962, and is the son of the noted watercolourist John Yardley. As a young boy he accompanied his father on painting expeditions into the Surrey countryside, and switched to oil painting whilst still a schoolboy, but it was not until the mid 1990s, after studying for degrees in history at the universities of Bristol and Oxford, that he took to painting full time. His success was immediate: as well as being elected into the membership of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, he was taken on by several leading galleries, and his first solo show, in 1998, was here at Catto Gallery.
This is his ninth solo show at the Catto. This new show for the Catto reveals him in supreme control of his craft. There's terrific harmony in these assured works. You just feel relaxed standing in front of them. "The eye seeks balance, and the more there is, the happier the result," says Bruce. We should all be very happy.
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