The Impressionists – An In the Gallery Presentation

I went to the movies to see paintings. It sounds counter intuitive but Cineplex has been putting on a series of documentaries called In the Gallery.

‘In The Gallery is your cinematic tour of exhibits around the world, bringing you up close and personal to the greatest art exhibitions and galleries across the globe.’

 They are like events in that the have a very limited number of showings, in the instance just two for The Impressionists. So what was my ‘Impression’?  The documentary was good and shed new light for me on the role that the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel played in establishing the Impressionists in their place in art history. Your left with the sense that without Durand-Ruel it’s possible that they may have just been a footnote in art history or at least not have had the impact that they did without his support both financial and commitment in the face of opposition to change and outright derision. The documentary itself spends the first 30 minutes setting the stage for the Impressionists as you might expect. After this though as the story continues we are presented with wonderful close-ups of their work that form part of the exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay. These close-ups provide an opportunity to see the brushwork of the painters that even seeing a painting in person does not provide, you just can’t get that close in any other way. This is where the theatre as a venue is great. Perhaps watching a 4K video from 10 feet on a large TV would be similar but of that I’m not certain. Seeing the weave of the canvas and the strokes of paint pulled across it was wonderful. What detracted for the experience was the movie format itself. A movie by nature is a linear experience curated for time. There are no opportunities to linger on a particular painting, the tour must move along. Also rather than using translation when French is spoken subtitles are used. The problem with this is two-fold it requires you to move your gaze from the imagery to reading if you want to follow the story and the text overlays otherwise exquisite images. While others I spoke to after the show liked the cinematography I found selective focus was used more than I would have liked. I think the paintings speak for themselves as presented and did not require this particular effect. I found the experience good despite these caveats with the giant close-ups providing the element that no other medium provides.
Poplars (Autumn) 1891
Even a high quality book will only get you so far such as this detail above of a Monet painting. Morisot_woman

Try to imagine this Berthe Morisot painting 50 feet across and then imagine that a small detail is enlarged to that size and you get a sense of the experience.

Again unfortunately there are only two showing and those are only separated by three days so the opportunities to see this are limited.  I will keep an eye out in the future for similar movie events but that said a good documentary on Blu-ray can be watched more than once.   And on that note this documentary is produced by Seventh Art Productions where they appear to make these available for sale.

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