Inventing Impressionism at the National Gallery reviewed: a mixed bag of …

National Gallery, until 31 May

When it was suggested that a huge exhibition of Impressionist paintings should be held in London, Claude Monet had his doubts. Staging such an exhibition, he wrote to his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, would be ‘unwise’ and only likely to baffle a London public that ‘knows very little about us’. That was in 1904. What, one wonders, would Monet make of Inventing Impressionism, which has just opened at the National Gallery 111 years later?

It can hardly be said now that the British know little of the Impressionists. On the contrary, you could argue we’ve seen quite enough of them in recent decades. The challenge for a gallery planning to put on such an exhibition is how to make it different. That is, how to make it more than just a lot more assorted Monets, Renoirs and whatnot?

Does Inventing Impressionism clear that bar? It certainly has a novel

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