TURNER, WHISTLER, MONET at the Art Gallery of Ontario ( 317 Dundas West ), to September 12. $18, stu/srs $15. 416-979-6648. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
The Turner, Whistler, Monet exhibition is one of the most stunning in the AGO's history. It highlights the historic relationship between the three painters while underscoring their contributions to the development of Impressionism.
In that movement, the immediate effects of light and atmosphere took centre stage, marking a radical turn away from the allegorical and narrative landscapes of the 18th and earlier 19th centuries. This change unfolds from painting to painting here.
Turner, Whistler and Monet challenged themselves to find beauty amidst the ravages of industrialization in a rapidly changing era beset by smog and urbanization. The exhibit illustrates their problem, with added historical documentation that broadens the already fascinating dialogue between the three painters.
Whistler and Monet were close friends who shared an admiration for Turner, yet this is the first time these artists have been brought together to compare and contrast in such depth. Viewers will be amazed at Turner's proto-Impressionism. His late paintings give an assured sense of place with only swirls and smudges of colour - 40 years before Monet's own blazing renditions of Thames sunsets and Venetian lagoons.
Whistler acts as the bridge between them, mediating between the realism of the late 19th century and the stirrings of early Impressionism. Viewers will, of course, have their own preferences, but for me Whistler wins hands down. His works, deft and unsentimental, show an expatriate's eye for detail.
This is an exhibit to be seen again and again. Drop whatever you're doing and go see this show.