Impressionism and the art of shock and awe

Britain’s Royal Academy of Art made a new film called Manet on the master painter, to coincide with its ambitious exhibition currently running in London. Shown at the NCPA’s Godrej Theatre, it left me vaguely disappointed because the film concentrated too much on the putting together of the exhibition, rather than giving a detailed exposition of the paintings themselves, and where they stand in the history of art.

It’s funny now to recall how the word ‘Impressionist’ came into being. Several painters of the 19th century were unhappy with the jury system that prevailed in Europe, seeing it as arbitrary and whimsical. But without jury approval, you couldn’t exhibit at the Salon, and without exhibiting at the Salon, you couldn’t get anywhere. So a few painters, Monet, Pissaro, Sisley, Morisot, Cezanne and Degas, formed a body, Societe Anonyme, which would hold its own shows. The painters were labelled Les Intransigents, the

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