The Impressionists - starts
Sunday 30 April, 6.35pm, BBC ONE
Rivalries, romance, and a struggle for recognition – a unique insight into the world of the Impressionist painters in a fascinating new factual drama for BBC
To modern eyes, Impressionist paintings possess a familiar,
well-loved beauty - Monet's exquisite water lilies, Renoir's smiling girls,
Degas' delicate ballerinas.
However, to contemporaries, Impressionist paintings were seen
as scandalous and heretical.
On their first appearance in Paris in
the 1870s, the paintings caused outrage in the art world, were viciously
denounced by critics and rejected by the public. "They have declared
war on beauty," wrote
It was many years before this opinion would change.
The Impressionists, a three
part factual drama for BBC ONE, vividly reconstructs the movement's remarkable
Based on archive letters, records and interviews from the
time, the series records the lives of the artists who were to transform
the art world.
It is a tale of poverty and of a struggle for recognition,
set against a backdrop of war and revolution.
But at the heart is the brotherhood
of artists, bound by enduring friendships and their commitment to a new
type of art which survived rows, rivalries, duels and crises.
The story is led by the paintings. Some of the world's most memorable art works are recreated here following the same techniques that the artists used at the time.
The series reveals how Monet took just 40 minutes to paint
his seminal work Impression: Sunrise in a race against time to capture
the light; why Manet's depiction of Olympia, in which his model brazenly
gazes out of the canvas, so outraged Parisian society; and how Cézanne's
60 paintings of one mountain, Montagne Saint-Victoire, laid the
foundations for cubism and modern art.
Julian Glover (Waking the Dead, Troy, Star Wars) plays 80-year-old Monet, the "father of Impressionism" and narrator of the series.
He undertakes a nostalgic but painful journey as he looks
back on his past life in an interview with a journalist at his garden
He remembers arriving as a young man in Paris in 1862 full
of dreams about a new kind of art.
Young Monet, played by Richard
Armitage (North and South), leads the group of friends with his vision
for paintings that capture the images, energy and light of the modern
world."I immediately preached revolt," he
Monet describes his fellow artists and supporters with whom he struggled and
shared so much:
- Bazille, played by James
Lance (Absolute Power, The Book Club), the little known genius who
died too soon to enjoy the movement's success
- Renoir, played by Charlie
Condou (Charlotte Gray, Nathan Barley), an irrepressible lover
and painter of women who claimed: "I don't know if I would have become
a painter if God hadn't created the female breast"
- Manet, played by Andrew
whose work was Monet's first inspiration, but was censored by society
- Degas, played by Aden Gillett, who captured
the back stage reality of the ballet world
- Cézanne, played by Will
I), whose innovative work determined the path of modern art
plays Alice Hoschedé, Monet's great
Richly woven with quotes from the primary sources, the series captures characters'
idiosyncrasies – Cézanne's hatred of barking dogs, his mistress Hortense's
love of lemonade, Monet's flamboyant dress sense and Degas' irritability – to
bring the story of the Impressionists to life.
The Impressionists is beautifully shot on location in Provence and Normandy -
at Monet's garden at Giverny, and in locations in the UK.