In some respects Impressionism has become something of a cliché, with its ubiquitous Monet umbrellas, Renoir tote bags, Degas greeting cards and the like. But what many may not know is that in its early days it was a rebellious movement and the artists were labelled subversive, provocative and even inflammatory. They were out to upend the status quo, not play by the rules.
This early period is the subject of the National Gallery’s exquisite 85-piece exhibition Inventing Impressionism: The man who sold a thousand Monets, open through 31 May. The man in question is entrepreneurial art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel whose faith, tenacity and innovative business strategies kept the nascent movement afloat. It’s an exhibition that provides context, which leads, in turn, to a greater appreciation of the works of art.