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24 September 2014
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Julian Glover as Claude Monet

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 ONE.


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 one critic.


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 story.


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 in Giverny.


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 recalls.


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 Havill (Casanova), 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 Keen (Elizabeth I), whose innovative work determined the path of modern art
  • Amanda Root (Persuasion) plays Alice Hoschedé, Monet's great love.


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.



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