On my first visit to “Monet to Matisse: Masterworks of French Impressionism” at the Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center for the Arts, I was especially struck by the faces in the paintings — the subtle expressions, the ambiguous emotions, the tension between subjects and painters.

The gallery was relatively quiet on that first visit in September, but it was bustling with activity last Friday when I decided to have a second look.

The opening day of PULSE Art + Technology Festival had lured many visitors to the interactive exhibits throughout the museum. Two groups of students were enjoying “Monet to Matisse,” while another 30 visitors were listening intently to the docent leading one of the Jepson’s tours of the exhibit. Those tours are offered at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. daily.

The sheer energy in the gallery encouraged me to look at different paintings and appreciate the work in different ways than on my initial visit. I found myself focusing on color and movement.

 

While the exhibition focuses primarily on impressionism, some of the strongest pieces are by painters more closely associated with later movements.

Chaim Soutine’s “Landscape at Cagnes” uses aggressive brushstrokes and distorted perspectives to capture a moment on a blustery day in the hilly town on the Mediterranean coast. I know little about Soutine, a Russian Jew who died in 1943 in Paris after several years in hiding during World War II, but that one painting makes me hungry to learn more.

As detailed in the curatorial notes, Marc Chagall’s “Dreamer” was painted in 1945, a year after Chagall’s wife died. A basket of brightly colored flowers is juxtaposed with, even dominated by, the painting’s funereal elements, especially the detached expression on the female figure floating above.

“Monet to Matisse,” which is comprised of works from the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, closes on Feb. 10, so if you have been procrastinating, you need to mark your schedule soon.

Rihab Bagnole, an art history professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, will speak on “The Impact of Modernity on Impressionist Art” at 6 p.m. Jan. 31 in the Jepson’s Neises Auditorium. The event is free for museum members and $8 for non-members.

The auditorium tends to fill up quickly for events, so pre-registration is required at telfair.org. There could be some space left for folks who do not register or who arrive late, but the museum encourages attendees to find seats by 5:45 p.m.

Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email billdawers@comcast.net.