Sunday, 23 May 2010


“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” - Claude Monet

For Art Sunday today, something different. We watched an excellent 3-hour TV miniseries this weekend, called “The Impressionists”. It was directed by Tim Dunn and starred Julian Glover (as the elderly Monet), Richard Armitage (young Monet), Aden Gillet (Degas), Charlie Condou (Renoir), Andrew Havill (Manet), Will Keen (Cezanne) and Anthony Calf (Zola). It was a BBC UK production and once again, there was a beautiful sense of history and authentic detail, as the British know so very well to do. The costumes, cinematography and acting were first class, with some of the marvellous countryside and mise-en-scène being a living re-creation of some of the most famous paintings in the world.

The action centres on Monet who as an old man meets a journalist in his estate at Giverny, while he is painting one of his famous Japanese bridge pictures. Monet recollects the heady days of his youth when he and the most illustrious brotherhood of Impressionist artists - Degas, Renoir, Bazille, Cézanne and Manet shocked and astonished the artistic establishment of Paris. The series was based entirely based on documentary evidence, with some stunning authentic scenery transporting the viewer to 19th century France and the private lives of some of the most renowned of the world’s artists.

As we love the impressionists, this miniseries was visual feast, on which we gorged ourselves. The relationships between the artists, the historical setting, the artistic and social climate and their family environments put the impressionists’ art in context and made us understand a little more the artists and their works. I recommend this biographical drama most highly and if you like art, I think you will love this movie.

One of the surprises in the miniseries was Frédéric Bazille, a painter whom I had not heard of before seeing this film. It is understandable perhaps, as his oeuvre is very limited because he died at a very young age. His painting above “The Artist’s Studio”, depicts several of his artworks in progress along with himself (standing tall leaning on the easel), Manet, and likely Monet. This painting indicates the friendship and fellowship that existed between these painters and it is something the film highlights very well.


  1. I know of Bazille quite well, and not just his paintings. The first artists gathered when Bazille, Monet, Renoir and Sisley met at Charles Gleyre's studio where they were all were studying in 1862. Manet, Degas & Bazille came from elegant, bourgeois families; Monet, Renoir & Cezanne were rougher, provincial lads.

    But it was Bazille who enabled some of the poorer artists to survive, by paying their bills. Before the Franco-Prussian war, he put bread on the plates of the starving painters, Monet, Renoir and Pissarro, as well as their spouses and children. Pissarro said his children would have died of starvation, had it not been for Bazille's extraordinary generosity.

  2. The "brotherhood" of the impressionists is a very good term to describe this closely knit group of artists who generally helped and supported each other in the negative climate of the academic painting world.
    I was not familiar with this painter too and I am now stimulated to go and search for more of his works.