National Gallery Celebrates The Man Who Saved Impressionism
Londonist Rating: ★★★★★
The story of Impressionism is well known: a set of artists who revolutionised painting but were ahead of their time and not appreciated by the vast majority of critics. But the story that isn't often told is of Paul Durand-Ruel — an art dealer who saw the potential of the Impressionists and ploughed his money into buying their works and keeping them afloat. It could be argued that if it wasn't for Durand-Ruel, then Impressionism may simply be a footnote in art history.
Rather than telling his story through a dry selection of personal belongings, his narrative is illustrated with the help of 85 masterpieces so visitors can learn about Durand-Ruel, or simply soak in the wonderful works on display. Colour abounds in paintings by Renoir; there are foreboding moonlit Manets, and other works by well known artists such as Degas and Pissarro. It's not just Impressionism on display, there are also Romantic works and a sculpture by August Rodin in the exhibition.
The star of this show is Claude Monet. While it's easy to think of him only as a painter of water lilies this exhibition shows us just how versatile he was. In one painting he is able to capture sunlight kissing a railroad bridge, while elsewhere he catches the grittier side of life as men carry coal off their boats. The simplicity of a door becomes a showcase of his skill, and all the while breathtaking landscapes are delivered at every turn.
This exhibition may be centred on Paul Durand-Ruel but the National Gallery has made the right choice in letting the works speak for themselves — and it delivers fantastic paintings en masse. It's a reminder of why Impressionism is such a well loved genre of painting and will undoubtedly be a deservedly popular show.
Inventing Impressionism: Paul Durand-Ruel and the Modern Art Market is on at The National Gallery until 31 May. Tickets are £16 for adults, concessions available. Also still on at The National Gallery are the Romantic moonlit landscapes by Peder Balke.
For more great art to see in London, visit our top 10 exhibitions for March.
Last Updated 04 March 2015