Art review: Inventing Impressionism is a joyous exhibition

National Gallery | ★★★★☆

So familiar are the impressionists that it can be difficult to gain a sense of how revolutionary they were from our vantage point in the 21st century. The National Gallery, in its small but perfectly balanced new exhibition Inventing Impressionism, has come up with an ingenious way of evoking their iconoclasm – by showing them through the eyes of Paul Durand-Ruel, the collector whose heroic enthusiasm safeguarded their passage as they made the first, crucial leap into modernity.

Impressionists favoured the fleeting moment over the unchanging truths of nature. This meant blurs and speckles, swirls and smudges – and perplexity from the critical establishment. In one of the rooms, a quote from the critic Albert Wolff is written in bold: “There are people who burst into laughter in front of these objects. Personally, I

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