Written and directed by Phil Grabsky, this documentary continues to be as informative and thoroughly fascinating as its predecessors, based upon the life of art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. Interviews with chief curators and directors of Musée d’Orsay, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The National Gallery and Sotheby’s recount Durand-Ruel’s tumultuous struggle with promoting and selling impressionist paintings during the late 19th century and early 20th century, while a few of his great-grandchildren give a personal perspective of the determined nature of his character.
With a soundtrack composed by Stephen Baysted, the calm solo piano complements close-up shots of impressionist paintings by leading artists like Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas and Claude Monet, slowly pored over from the outset. The audience is instantly exposed to the textured vibrancy and expression of paint, which instils an immediate sense of awe and appreciation. This emotion is a common reaction of modern viewers to impressionist art; it is revealed, though, that this reception has not always been as such.
This documentary gives an in-depth account of the economic and social movements between 1880-1920 in France, England and America that, in turn, influenced movements and progression of modern art of the time. It’s at once highly educational and thoroughly engaging.
The audience learn the context of art business at the time and the ways artists worked in order to gain exposure. Monthly reviews with engravings of paintings created by Durand-Ruel for potential buyers are shown – clearly the equivalent of modern magazines. Considering the difference compared to today’s art market and promotion, audiences are led to sympathise and understand how difficult it would have been for emerging artists with an entirely new and unconventional style to be noticed. A likeness between the Salon, the official art exhibition at Académie des Beaux-Arts and one of the greatest events of the period, and the Summer Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts today becomes apparent as the audience discovers the process of selection. The Impressionists is an an intriguing look at the artists’ struggle to be recognised by the judging panel, as well as by French and European viewers in general at the turn of the century.
The Impressionists is released nationwide on 26th May 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Impressionists here: