Art History, Impressionism, Issues of women artists, TV Series - Films

ArtReview: The Impressionists (BBC) and the absence of women artists

The Impressionists is a three hours’ factual drama which reconstructs the origins of Impressionism, it is divided in three episodes and it’s based on letters, records and interviews. The series focus on the figure of Monet (considered as the father of Impressionism), who is the narrator of the Impressionism’s story. In the series, they recreated some of the world’s most memorable art works by using the same techniques the artists used at the time. By using quotes from the primary sources, the series depicts the characters’ idiosyncrasies —Cézanne’s hatred of barking dogs, his mistress Hortense’s love of lemonade, Monet’s flamboyant dress sense and Degas’ irritability, all these details to be as loyal as possible to the real characters.

The other day I was watching it for the first time and I could not help be disappointed because they didn’t include names very important to the movement as Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassat or Marie Bracquemond “les trois grandes dames”. I am not saying that they forgot these artists because they’re women, truth is that they did not include Alfred Sisley or Gustave Caillebotte either, and they’re men. But in my opinion, it would be important to include at least one of the feminine representative of the group.

Reading about Monet’s life, I’ve found an art critic of that time about “The impressionists’ exhibition” referring to it as “an exhibition of five or six madmen, among them a woman”, probably Berthe Morisot, it makes obvious that the presence of women in the movement was very important.

Berthe Morisot was the first woman to join the impressionist group. She was very close to Manet (her brother-in-law) and she was a friend of Edgar Degas too. She was also a known artist at Paris, she exhibited in the highly-esteemed Salon de Paris for the first time at 1864, and she got works selected to exhibition in six subsequent editions. She was the most important woman in the movement.

Despite this, I really liked the series, I think they did a great work reconstructing the lives of some impressionists, specially Monet. And I do recommend to watch it, but as an admirer of the movement I cannot help feel a little disappointed with the absence of the feminine painters.

As an additional information about the miniseries. The cast is amazing with names like Richard Armitage as the young Monet or Julian Glover as older Monet.