Re-Watching The Impressionists [part 3] – Finale

How quickly time flies. If Besotted hadn’t reminded me in the comments, I would’ve completely forgotten that I had a last episode of The Impressionists to catch up with. Forgetting the Re-Watch is symptomatic. I may have enjoyed the show, and the wide smiles that Armitage was allowed to brighten the screen with were certainly welcome, but somehow this mini-series was never – and never will be – my favourite of Richard’s works.

It’s not *all* because of the wig and look of Claude Monet. *That* is easily balanced out by the wide smiles! My lukewarm feelings about this mini-series has more to do with my general lack of enthusiasm for impressionism. I fully appreciate the importance of this arts movement for the development of painting and art in general, and I understand the impressionists’ value. In many case I actually do find their paintings particularly evocative, beautiful and touching. I guess, my problem with them is that they have become too popular – which usually makes me turn away from something. That’s unfair – but unfortunately true. But I totally concede that – particularly Monet’s – Impressionist paintings are incredibly beautiful.

Quick Summary

We pick up again in episode 3 of TI with the group celebrating Edouard Manet’s formal recognition as an artist after he has been awarded the Légion d’Honneur. However, Manet is suffering from syphilis and his health deteriorates. He dies in 1883. Monet, OTOH, is living with Alice Hochedé after his wife’s death. The two of them become a couple, marry and eventually settle in Giverny. Monet develops his serial painting technique, always following the changing light.

A large part of this episode is taken up with the life and travails of Paul Cézanne who is seen as a revolutionary new painter by the impressionists. Despite an affluent background, he lives in poverty with his working class wife and illegitimate son. First shunned by the art world, Cézanne’s genius is eventually recognised and he joins the Impressionists as the most celebrated painters in the world. They overcame all the obstacles and changed painting – and art – forever. So much for the summary of episode 3.  

Beards and Hair

I was quite amused in this episode about the changing hairstyles of Claude Monet. Starting out with short hair and a pipe, the next scene in a café he had long hair again. Continuity was a bit lax there, I thought 😂. But at least we could see that RA really knew how to smoke. Yep, as an ex-smoker (almost 6 months to the day) I notice such things. – Eventually the episode settled into short hair for Claude. And I couldn’t help but feel reminded of my personal hero Leon Trotzky…

Tenuous. I know. But fun. Right down to the left eyebrow.

However, let’s stay quickly with the look – ok, I am a not a fan of facial shrubbery at all, and particularly not these kind of standalone shrubs on upper lip and chin. If there has to be facial hair, give me a full blown meadow that covers all (beard) or stay with the manicured lawn aka stubble. Looking at the overgrown goatee on Richard’s chin, however, I am wondering whether it is actually his own. Not only because he has always been so proud of his fast growth and thus the conclusion lies near. No, but also because of the tell-tale triangle underneath his lower lip. Mr Armitage has, indeed, a rather pretty beard-growth pattern (see evidence on right).

Elder statesman or ill-fitting wig?

I was quite taken with the elder statesman look he was given in the latter part of the episode, once Monet had settled down with Alice and concentrated on creating Giverny as his inspirational garden. (I don’t really think that Richard has an old man’s face, yet, though, so I finally was reconciled with Julian Glover playing Monet senior in the framework plot.) In fact, I found myself fascinated by the grey temples and the short hair, and I kept screen-shooting.

 

 

I also enjoyed that his eye crinkles came into play…

Things I Loved

As always, Richard – even considerably younger and less experienced than today – was a pleasure to watch. I loved the scenes where he glowed with enthusiasm, happiness and lust for life, smiling widely with glowing teeth. But I especially liked the scenes where you could hear him laugh. It really doesn’t happen very often at all that you can hear Richard Armitage laugh in one of his roles. He is the go-to man for scowling (Guy of Gisborne, John Thornton), growling (Francis Dolarhyde, Thorin Oakenshield) and frowning (John Porter, Daniel Miller). And yet his laugh is an absolute joy. In German we call his kind of laugh “gurgling” – but that doesn’t quite hit it in English. What I like about it is not what it looks like (although I believe that *every* laugh looks beautiful), but what it sounds like. Reminder:

That’s what he laughed like in his younger years. (I think his laugh now has become slightly deeper, more baritone, whereas it sounded more tenor way back in the early 2000s.) And it is infectious. Bookmark and keep near for any rainy day. It definitely works.

Ok, moving on. The old fogey in me also quite enjoyed the mature-lovestory-section of this episode. We were discussing it somewhere in the comments, I believe, and the series didn’t really get into it, but there are suspicions that Monet and Alice Hoschedé started their relationship even before she split with her husband and moved in with the Monets. Her youngest child may even have been by Monet. In that sense, it was lovely that the series spent a little time with Monet’s and Alice’s relationship. I wasn’t quite convinced by Richard’s choice to play Monet as out of breath as if he had just raced a marathon when he catches Alice in the garden and proposes. But this completely balanced everything out:

Why yes, Mr Thornton, I am coming home with you.

Not to mention this:

Gorgeous crinkles, like arrows pointing at happy eyes.

Ok, bonus for the romantics among you:

Yeah, man, this was such a clean show, it almost seemed as if it was made for school TV. You know what I mean? Your history/art/literature teacher wheeling in the big TV and the VCR, and then you’d sit through an hour of veritable and highly educational but mindnumbingly clean-and-boring docudrama? Well, to be suitable for teenagers, no tit may be shown, no mention of sex may be made and no tongue may be used. 😂

And Where It Went Wrong For Me

And maybe that is what ultimately irked me about this show, or what prevented me from saying ” I love Love LOVE The Impressionists!!” It’s not that I need sex in every TV show to keep me engaged. And I am a big fan of contextualising history and presenting it in a way that the viewers can relate to. In that sense it was great that this mini-series made an attempt at showing the personal sacrifices all those pioneering painters had to make in order to succeed with their art. From losing Bazille in the war, via Manet’s syphilis, Degas’ eye illness and declining fortunes, to the overwhelming poverty of Monet and Cézanne, TÍ  is not simply a list of artistic milestones in the painters’ lives, but a look at how they progress as painters as well as men. And herein may also be the problem for me – I never fully committed to the show, and maybe so because of the lack of women in the narrative. Don’t get me wrong – of course I “saw” Camille and Alice, and Mme Manet, Mme Cézanne and various models. But that’s exactly it, “various models”. Sure, you don’t have to explain to me that the 19th century was still a time dominated by men. But that doesn’t mean that in their private lives, men were uninfluenced (and untouched) by women. Or that women artists did not exist or not contribute to the development of art. Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzalez were part of the impressionist set – they don’t even turn up in passing in this series. The wives and women remain in their traditional role as nurturer, house-keeper and mothers.

Women. Reduced to nurturers and parasol-bearers?

(Left-field thought: Maybe it is also because this show was made in 2006 that women aren’t represented more prominently?) And all that may also be due to the limited amount of time available (3 hours) for a group of painters. In fairness, it would’ve been impossible to depict the lives and times of the impressionists in detail, and hence also a number of *male* protagonists of the movement (Pissarro? Gauguin? Sisley? Matisse?) had to be left out in order to contain the show. However, for me the whole show remained somewhat one-dimensional.

The Disclaimer

For fans of Richard Armitage, however, TI is definitely a worth-while show to watch. The smiles, the laugh, and the mannerisms that are just delightful to recognise. From Richard’s insistent innovative use of his teeth, to delicate hand movements and holding his head at *that* characteristic angle, there are certain “trademarks” in his acting repertoire that superfans such as us have no trouble identifying.

And Richard convincingly acts emotions and draws the audience into the emotional world of the sensitive artist.

Lastly I want to commend the mini series for producing beautiful images. I loved the wide shots especially because they illustrated so clearly what the impressionists were after.

These shots play with the impressionists’ emphasis of depicting the *moment*, pinpointing the changeability of art, and the transience of life. The impressionists’ penchant for working plein air is ideally illustrated here. And the series is obviously also conscious of depicting movement rather than static subjects, and the different qualities of light – during the day, the seasons, inside and outside, in rain, sun or locomotive steam – as these are impressionist characteristics that are often also attributed to film (and photography). In that sense the series puts the theory into practice.

Last note: Just as I was watching episode 3 of TI, the news came through that a Monet painting has set a new record price for works by the artist. From the “haystack” series of paintings, the picture was sold for $110m in New York. An indication of how *right* the impressionists were.

I finish with a quote by Berthe Morisot, of all people.

It is important to express oneself… provided the feelings are real and are taken from your own experience.

The impressionist painters did that beautifully, and showed us that it can be done and *should* be done. No one better to portray “real” feelings than Richard. And I am always happy to see how he expresses them.

 

 

21 thoughts on “Re-Watching The Impressionists [part 3] – Finale

  1. Welcome back, Guylty. You were missed!

    The women as adjuncts aspect was my main beef about the series. Since several of the male painters were excluded anyway, we could have had a glimpse or two of the female artists and left out some of the digressions into war and the shenanigans backstage at the ballet. Plus the head and face foliage were still a distraction for me. But I’m with you all the way on the positive bits. 😍

    I saw the news about the very expensive haystacks. Hopefully it’s not one of the daubs Mr A knocked up on t set.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL oh can you imagine, Jenny – an original Armitage cheapskate production being mistaken for a genuine Monet? That would be so funny…
      It actually took me the whole series to finally figure out what disappointed me about the series – the way women were under- and misrepresented. As I said, I’d like to think that is due to the time it was made in. But then again – it is “only” 13 years ago. It’s not exactly last century…

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      • I had no problem with that. It was a show about a particular, narrow selection of the impressionist movement and those are the artists they choose.
        I am actually glad when stuff like that doesn’t jump out and bug me for once. Makes it easier to just enjoy a show, which I often cannot because things like that enter my mind. So I am just gonna be grateful this wasn’t the case here. *phew*

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        • That used to be my attitude for a long time. “It’s just a selection.” But I have changed my mind. I think it reflects more than the paternalism of the time and the fact that there were more male than female painters. It also reflects the approach of the film makers, and I don’t think that you can make films like that in 2019. Maybe you could in 2006 *lol*. So in that sense it is a truly historical piece. But nowadays women have to be represented in a different way – without rewriting history, but in such a way that doesn’t make them marginal.

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  2. Add Amanda Root to the list of actresses to envy because they’ve had the opportunity to plant big fat kisses on the lips of Mr. Armitage.

    And Lordy, Lordy, why is there no gif/meme of RA saying “I would very much like to behave like a husband” in his sexy whisper voice? It would pair so nicely with “I would like to play the overbearing master….” And “Close your eyes, you’ll remembah.”

    It’s in Part 3, at 16:16 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va507eoRSqc

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Breaking news! You can rent Monet’s house in Giverny. Around €200 per night! On airb&b, but I didn’t understand if you can go in the gardens…

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  4. i 100% agree with your view that it has the appearance of being made to be shown at school to very bored kids! lol
    it was very pretty and he smiled alot but i wouldn’t say it was my fave program of his-it’s somewhere in the middle

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    • *grins* Maybe our expectations are simply too high when it comes to student entertainment, Rachel… And yes, somewhere in the middle is about right. It wasn’t great, but it was by no means bad either. Just meh like “middle”.

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  5. I really enjoy The Impressionists. I appreciate the acting, the idea that we are seeing the world at least partially the way these artists saw it, the story, how much fun the actors seem to be having, and of course Richard’s laughs and smiles. This third episode is not as much fun, but I found Will Keen’s Cézanne funny and yet endearing in an unbalanced sort of way. My younger son was doing something on his phone in the other room, but kept getting caught up in the story and the pictures/scenery and having to look over. Richard’s choked up speech and tears after Manet’s death are particularly well done, as are his scenes with Alice. One thing I find is that I don’t notice as many of Richard’s go-to facial expressions (eyelash flutters etc) here — maybe not as ingrained this early. All in all, I put this one higher than middle, but not up at the top with N&S or Robin Hood or VOD, for me.

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  6. I can’t really add very much to these thoughts on The Impressionists and I think Guylty you’ve hit the nail on the head. It is a clean, sanitised, view and so was healthy enough to be aired before or after Songs of Praise on a Sunday. Ha ha to the large TV wheeled into the classroom – me too! (without hashtag). And yes, the power of the paintings themselves has become neutralised by commercialism in tea towels and place mats. I suppose they concentrated on the big-cheese impressionists but Berthe Morisot should have been represented, even briefly, particularly as she was Manet’s sister-in-law and so part of the close circle. Will Keen as a wild driven Cezanne was very good. As for RA, his older look disturbingly reminded me of my father (who didn’t look like Trotsky but was once mistaken for Castro) which tempered my ogling rather. Thank you for including the laughter reel. He has such a seductive laugh. it often sounds as though he is trying to repress it and it just escapes .Gurgle is the word. I have a sound clip of his grey-jacketed Robin Hood interview on my ipod because I love it so much.

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  7. While this is not one of my top RA favorites, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this series. It was visually stunning throughout and I feel that RA has the classic features and elegant stature perfect for a period piece role like this. He is gorgeous in this series- those eyes and that smile..swoon. I don’t know why the show had to give him so many variations of wigs & ridiculous shrubbery though- the other artists basically stayed the same. That said, RA’s range of portraying glowing euphoria full of passion and joy, then descending into devastating sadness at the loss of those dear to his heart were truly wonderful to behold. He has such beauty in the subtlety of his acting.
    Like you I think I would have liked to have seen more of the women in his life featured. Did you know that his son Jean married Alice’s daughter Blanche? Alice’s second daughter Blanche had a special bond with Monet and he mentored her as an artist when she was a young woman. She also became an exhibited artist with a (not surprisingly) similar style to Monet. At some point after Alice and Jean died, Blanche moved in with Monet at Giverny and cared for him until his death. What I love about a series like this is that it inspires me to want to learn more about the people it portrays.
    Timely news about the latest auction of one of his paintings. I wonder how he would react to the knowledge he has broken all artist and Impressionist records. Thanks for your completely wonderful recap of this series. A Claude RAPS in the future would certainly be lovely… but what are your thoughts about a possible Monet junk journal?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I enjoyed the series but could have done without the scraggly facial hair. I like a well groomed clean manly beard, (we know he has no probs producing one) but I was distracted now and again with the wispy fake facial hair.

    Like the art, seeing the process.

    I don’t like how women are treated, but don’t think the past should be sugar coated. We should all be aware and informed so we can do better in the future. It’s why I think education so important for everyone. The less educated society is, the more girls and women become a commodity. Whoops, that was an unexpected digression. Sorry. 🌼

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    • No, you are right – it is (somewhat) a reflection of the times they are depicting, and the women in the painters’ lives were wives and mothers (to their children), largely *reactive* rather than active, and therefore did not have the chance to be rounded characters. Except there *were* a couple of women impressionists, too, and it would not have hurt the script or the story to include them in this series too…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I agree with you on that especially. There are still people, well men mostly, who will sadly, (short sighted I think) not include women, much less recognize them for their contributions or talents.

        I do think things are changing, but we still have a long way to go before the majority of people will look at another person and judge them on their work, behavior or contribution in the world and not immediately dismiss someone on their ethnicity, gender, etc.

        So yes, how cool would it have been to learn of the women struggling to get their art recognized during the same period. I am woefully ignorant of that time myself and would have sincerely appreciated it.

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