When Monet, Renoir, Bazille, Manet, Degas, and Cezanne revolutionized painting in the nineteenth century, they were ridiculed by the French press and rejected by the judges of the Salon, the most prestigious of France's art exhibitions. Because few art dealers would buy their paintings, they were always in debt, often buying paints before paying their landlords and grocers. Recognition and admiration were decades away.
Seen on BBC and PBS television, The Impressionists is a three episode miniseries full of light and color, just like the paintings of these impressionist painters. Based on letters, diaries, and interviews of the time, this dramatization shows an aged Monet (played by Julian Glover) remembering the lives of his friends. Much of the film appears to have been shot at historic locations (or good recreations), as viewers are shown both settings and the resulting masterworks throughout the presentation.
Teachers might consider showing the miniseries to their students, as the characters discuss their methods and philosophies. Viewer learn much art history effortlessly. One of my favorite scenes has a young Monet (played by Richard Armitage) at his easel in a field painting his family standing among the wildflowers; they will not stay put while he works, so he paints them in two spots on the canvas. I also really liked the scene of Monet running from canvas to canvas as the light changed on haystacks.
Readers who enjoyed The Judgment of Paris by Ross King should see this three hour miniseries. Viewers might also like Un Dimanche à la campagne (A Sunday in the Country), a beautiful French film about an aging impressionist painter remembering his life work.
Impressionists. Koch Vision, 2002. 2 DVDs. ISBN 1417229527.