The National Gallery’s new exhibit on Impressionism centers on one man, the Paris art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel.
The exhibition itself features work by all of the originators of Impressionism, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley, presented with the historical background of Durand-Ruel’s involvement with the group.
Bringing together works that were sold by Durand-Ruel along with works that he himself owned, and in one case a work that he sold and bought back, the exhibition places the works with in a historical setting and framework that shows how the Impressionist movement went from being ridiculed to being successful.
The history behind the exhibition means that it features works by some of the lesser known artists, the American born Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot. Although it is Renoir and Monet with whom Durand-Ruel was closest. The former painting portraits of his family while later decorated his apartments with artworks, a set of doors from which are presented here.
What the National Gallery have done so well is to place the work into a historical context. The Franco-Prussian war forced many of the artists to relocate. In the case of Édouard Manet all of the work he had produced up to this time was destroyed when troops ransacked his house. It was this unsettled time that seems to have inspired the artists to embrace the new.
Altogether this is a very well thought out and presented exhibition, the choice of works is both illuminating and interesting while the placement of the works in a historical context of both Durand-Raul and the wider world is fascinating.
The National Gallery – Sainsbury Wing
4 March – 31 May 2015