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Inventing Impressionism | National Gallery

Inventing Impressionism | National Gallery

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Inventing Impressionism | National Gallery | - 1

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The National Gallery take the innovative step of shifting perspective to the art dealer to reveal the narrative behind the art on display in this exhibition. Fore it is Paul Durand-Ruel who takes center stage here, credited with the rise of impressionism & all that it associates. The show tells the story of the hostile criticism that this art form provoked throughout it's early history as one of the radical movements in modern art. Critics of the time slated....


Durand-Ruel (1831-1922)  not only believed in the artists he came to represent he also understood the power of the publicity generated by the controversy surrounding this genre of art. The curious flocked to see the art so berated by the art establishment of the time & banned from the Musée du Luxembourg. Durand-Ruel invited a sceptical public into his home to view the works for themselves as he persisted in counteracting the negative opinion.


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The outbreak of the Franco Prussian War in 1870 led to Durand-Reul taking his family & his paintings to London where he attempted to sell French art to an opposing British public. This also proved to be unsuccessful.


By the second impressionist exhibition in 1876 Durand-Reul cleverly paid respected critic Edward Duranty to write a defence of the new art. Although this was accompanied by multiple negative quips of the show it provided a mouthpiece for an alternative view. A shrewd move for a dealer intent on successfully establishing the work of the artists he had connected with.


<< Portrait of Paul Duarand-Ruel by Renoir, 1910






Nearing bankruptcy from his failure to trade the paintings Durand-Ruel attempted to enter a different market. In 1883, during desperate times financially, he traveled to America accompanied by 300 impressionist paintings searching for buyers. In New York, Philadelphia & Cincinnati he found what he had been seeking.., Collectors. This enabled him to continue promoting the impressionist works he so treasured. This American investment was closely followed by acceptance in Germany & the movement went from strength to strength. His resolute approach had ultimately paid off. 

In 1905 he showed the first major Impressionist exhibition in Britain at the London Grafton Galleries. This proved to be a hugely popular show & is still considered to have been the most exceptional Impressionist exhibition ever held.

Although Durand-Ruel's story provides the narrative to this show it is, of course, the works themselves, which serve as the true attraction. The first room takes you into the dealer's apartment recreating the grand salon where he displayed paintings to potential collectors. Indeed Renoir's full-length painting, Dance in the City and Dance in the Country, 1883 features just as it did when hanging in Durand-Reul's Parisian apartment. 


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Dance in the City and Dance in the Country, 1883 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir


One of the highlights of the show for Passion Palette was certainly Manet's The Battle of the U.S.S Kearsarge and the C.S.S Alabama, 1864. This magnificent marine painting, oil on canvas, commemorates the Battle of Cherbourg, 1864, which the artist did not witness directly himself. Instead, he created this painting from the descriptions he read. The sea is said to be more frightening than the battle itself.  


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                              The Battle of the U.S.S Kearsarge and the C.S.S Alabama, 1864 by Édouard Manet



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A selection of Claude Monet's Poplar series are also included in the show. The trees stood nearby Monet's home & studio in marshland along the River Epte. The artist was said to have set himself upon a floating studio to capture the scene in true impressionist style.


<< Poplars in the Sun, 1891 by Claude Monet


Between 1891 and 1922, Paul Durand-Ruel is known to have purchased close to 12,000 pictures. These include more than 1,000 Monets, 1,500 Renoirs, 800 Pissarros, 400 by Degas & Sisleys, 200 Manets & 400 Mary Cassatts. Here, the National Gallery bring together a small selection of these & with it deliver the largest Impressionist exhibition of the past 20 years. Listen to Lindsay & Lane's commentary for more.




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