Impressionism was a revolution that changed art forever. When Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and their fellow experimenters painted the ephemeral light on dappled woods and rainy Paris streets, they destroyed the traditional idea that art must reveal nature’s deeper truth.
Only the light in the painter’s eye – a fleeting glimpse of a passing moment – mattered for the impressionists. When Monet painted a serpentine curving line of poplar trees in 1891 he caught their greenness against a violet sky. Just to emphasise the momentary and even delusory nature of this strange effect he painted them from another viewpoint as stately sentinels reflected in water. And again, looking like totem poles.
Monet’s 1891 series Poplars, brought together again from collections all over the world for this thought-provoking exhibition, is a tour de force of modern art that shows it was Monet, not Picasso, who first revealed the true complexity