Impressionism, the artist paints from his impression of the surroundings, the viewer forms his impression from the painting. My interpretation.
The 1870s, a time when Impressionism, a marginalised art movement, stirred commotion in the Parisian as well as the European art scenes. Impressionist paintings were beleaguered by criticism for their “low quality” and “unfinished work”.
Aspiring to be a military man, Paul Durand-Ruel became a reluctant gallery operator in his early twenties, when his father asked him for help to run his gallery. When he saw an entire gallery dedicated to the works by Delacroix in an international art exhibition, he fell in love, I am not sure was it with art or art appreciation or art dealing though.
However, I cannot doubt his commitment to this love, proven by risking bankruptcy for twenty times, enduring open mockery and direct debasement, and travelling across the Atlantic Ocean to find opportunities for works of Impressionism that was rejected by Parisians.
The controversial art movement broke the monopoly of the classical, which depict biblical and/or mythological images of high precision and fine finishing. In 1883, the first time Impressionist paintings were exhibited in a major museum, and it was in the United States of America, where people were “less close-minded” and spent more curiosity on new things. This was before any Impressionist was acquired by a public collection in Europe.
The Impressionists And The Man Who Made Them is a 90-minute film by Exhibition On Screen. Watch it to know the stories of the emergence of Impressionism, the Impressionists, and the man who made it happen. It is like taking a tour of the best Impressionist sitting down on a stationary chair, yet still having the important features and details (or lack of details) on the paintings pointed out to you.
Two of Durand-Ruel’s descendants are interviewed in the film, they also present and explain documents and printed matters left behind by the man, whose convictions can be matched by perhaps just a few at any given era.
Other interviews include personnel from the art sector and critics. Curators and assistants sharing how they would curate an Impressionist show for the viewers today is interesting, with apparent differences from how salons and galleries displayed artworks in the 19th century.
Find out from the film, who were probably the “pre-Impressionist” who showed nuances of the Impressionistic style, who were the “partial Impressionists” and so on. Learn a bit about the basic techniques and the mediums used by Impressionist artists, and how was it seen as a shock to the Parisian art circle.
Wondering who were the first people interested in acquiring Impressionist paintings? How did art dealing, salons, galleries work in those years? Get some simple answers from the film.
Ultimately, what is deeply moving is the story of Impressionism making it from the fringe to the centre stage, the main man behind (and in front of) it, and his business relationships and friendship with the many pioneer and later Impressionist painters, such as Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Degas, Renoir, Manet, Morisot, and Cassatt.
Screening date & time: 20th January 2016, 4pm | 24th January 2016, 2pm. Buy tickets here.
Venue: The Projector, Level 5 of Golden Mile Tower on Beach Road, Singapore.
“Impressionism: let there be color and light” – The Annotated Mona Lisa, 2nd edition, page 96