A colourful collection at the Royal Academy of Arts

Story by Jack Foley

THE variety of ways in which colour has been used by European artists in the 20th Century, particularly by Impressionists, is revealed in a new exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, entitled Masters of Colour: Derain to Kandinsky.

The event, which runs until November 17, has been introduced by Frank Whitford and comprises a personal selection of favourite works from the Masters of Colour.

Much of the work has been taken from Gabrielle and Werner Merzbacher's art collection, one of the greatest in the world and also takes in the work of the Fauvists, Russian Constructivists and German Expressionists.

According to the Royal Academy website: "Colour was one of the great driving pre-occupations of early Modernism — as can be seen in the my selection of favourite paintings which range from Van Gogh to the less well known Schmidt-Rottluff."

Included at the show is Vincent Van Gogh's 'Sunny Lawn in a Public Park (Arles)', oil on canvas, 1888 (pictured above), which dates from the artist's stay in the small Provençal town of Arles. It is commonly described as 'a perfect example of why Van Gogh (1853-1890) was perhaps the most important of the Post-Impressionists'.

According to the website: "The variety of colour in the trees and shrubs in the background, and in the newly mown grass in the foreground, is rendered in long, fat, juicy, marks of thick paint. These directionally applied brushstrokes create an alternating, visual rhythm across the picture surface.

" Everything in the painting can be identified and the composition is artfully constructed to remind us that it is an arrangement of brushmarks on a flat surface as well as a representation of nature. The picture is dominated by what we might expect to be the least important aspect of the landscape — a stretch of grass.

"There is no real foreground since the viewer looks down at the grass and shrubs from a high viewpoint. This elevated position makes it difficult to judge the distances within the painting. Everything seems more or less flat and equally close to us and our attention is repeatedly brought back to the surface, and its play of brushstrokes and colour."

Other works include André Derain's Boats in the Port of Collioure, Vassily Kandinsky's Murnau, Kohlgruberstrasse, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff's Gateway, Paul Klee's The Yellow House, and Fernand Léger's Mother and Child (Dog Under the Table).

The Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, WIJ OBD. Registered Charity No. 212798
Tel: 020 7300 8000/Recorded information line: 020 7300 5760/1

Opening hours - Seven days a week, from 10am to 6pm, and until 10pm on Fridays. Last admission to the galleries is 30 minutes before closing.