Painting the People The Impressionists: Painting and Revolution


Painting the People

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# Though it hardly looked like a novel at all

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# And the city treats me, it treats me to you

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# And a cup of coffee for you

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# To learn its language and speak it to you

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# And 70 million should be in the know

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# 70 million don't go out at all

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# And 70 million wouldn't walk this street

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# And 70 million would run to a hole

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# And 70 million would be wrong, wrong, wrong

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# And 70 million never see it at all

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# And 70 million haven't tasted snow. #

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Because this is a series about Impressionism,

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you probably expect me to spend most of my time outdoors,

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enjoying rivers and gardens and boating parties.

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Because that's what most people think Impressionism was about.

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Some of it was, of course.

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And we certainly saw a lot of sunny days in the last film.

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The one about the Impressionists outdoors.

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Remember Renoir by The Seine?

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GENTLE WATER SPLASHES

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Ah!

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And Monet at Etretat?

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SURF CRASHES

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Ooh!

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Nature, observed and recorded.

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The new way.

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But to think that Impressionism was mainly concerned

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with painting rivers and gardens is a mistake.

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Because it wasn't.

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For the Impressionists, staying indoors and watching the people

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was just as important as going outdoors

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and watching the landscape.

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You'll spot many a migrating bourgeois in Impressionist art.

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In couples and in singles.

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APPLAUSE

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And it can get bleak.

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Monet sits in on a family lunch

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and notices how gloomy it's got.

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Yes, this really is Monet and not Ibsen.

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The fact is, Impressionism is packed with people.

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They're everywhere.

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I don't think any society anywhere in art has been watched,

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categorised and judged

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as intensely as the inhabitants of France

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in Impressionist times.

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Behind every banquette, in every Parisian cafe,

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there lurked an Impressionist twitcher, spotting the clients.

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You couldn't hide from them in the bedroom either,

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because they were under the bed, watching you get dressed.

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The Impressionists witnessed the theatre of life

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unfolding before them

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with unprecedented keenness.

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And, like all the great portraitists in history,

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they weren't just interested in how people looked.

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They were fascinated by their inner lives as well.

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This is Degas' first masterpiece.

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He started painting it in his early 20s

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and then faffed about with it for years, as was his wont.

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They're all members of the Degas family.

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The woman is his Aunt Laura, his father's sister.

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She's married to the man on the right,

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Baron Gennaro Bellelli,

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a posh Italian from Florence.

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And these are their two children.

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Julia, sitting down,

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and Giovanna, on the left.

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Degas was very bourgeois.

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He came from a family of bankers.

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And here, at the back of the painting,

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is a picture within a picture

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of his grandfather, Rene-Hilaire Degas.

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He was the richest of the banking clan,

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stern and grumpy.

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The grandfather lived in Naples.

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There's another picture of him here by Degas.

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And all these other members of the family.

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This is Degas' sister, Marguerite Degas.

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Now, look at the way she spells her name.

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Marguerite De Gas.

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They did that to sound posh.

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Their real name was Degas, as the painter signs himself here.

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The family had no right to call themselves De Gas,

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but they were trying to sound better bred than they were,

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which was very bourgeois of them.

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And this here is Degas himself.

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Arrogant, surly,

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misogynist and bachelor,

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and a very clever painter

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with a cruel streak to him.

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Degas was a very difficult man.

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But he was also a genius and quite shockingly

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ungovernable and adventurous.

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This is all his early work and it looks very traditional.

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But even here...

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..he could be so outrageous.

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The portrait of the Bellellis,

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which seems so elegant and sedate,

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caused a big rumpus in the Degas family.

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Laura here, Degas' Italian aunt, whom he probably had a thing for,

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detested her husband, Baron Gennaro.

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They were deeply unhappy.

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She's actually pregnant in this picture

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with their third child.

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But look how unjoyous she seems

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and how far away from him she stands.

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This is a painting that goes deeply,

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cruelly almost, into the realms

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of personal psychology and feminine unhappiness.

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Degas, whom we're going to concentrate on in this film

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for as long as I can get away with,

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because he was such a genius,

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had the rebel gene in him from the start.

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He was so ungovernable, it's really surprising.

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Here's this haute bourgeois, a banker's son,

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whose art education was completely traditional.

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Posh school, Ecole des Beaux-Arts,

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everything in his past should have made him

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this kind of painter.

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But it didn't.

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It made him...this.

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And this.

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And this.

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Something went very wrong in grand bourgeois genetics

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when it produced Degas.

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Something glorious and colourful,

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blurry and intoxicating.

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It's a dynamic and inventive mutation,

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and there's not much in the story of civilisation

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we should thank the banking world for,

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but we do need to thank them for this.

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HORSE WHINNIES

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As you know, the British and the French

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don't always see eye to eye. They're not really natural buddies.

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So, if I was to suggest to you that Britain's influence

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on Impressionism was crucial,

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it's probably best if I suggest it quietly.

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Britain's influence on Impressionism was crucial.

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It was the British who introduced horseracing into France,

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just as they'd introduced boating and bathing and rambling.

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When it came to inventing new ways of not doing much on Sundays,

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the British were definitely the champs.

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This famous racecourse at Longchamp was only opened in 1857

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as part of the dramatic redesign of Paris

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by the infamous Baron Haussmann.

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Haussmann created this entire park from scratch,

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the Bois de Boulogne.

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It was based, I believe, on Hyde Park.

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And inside, he placed this huge,

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rowdy racecourse of Longchamp.

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Racing was an immediate hit with the French public,

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something else to do at the weekend.

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And where the modern public went,

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the modern painter was quick to follow.

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Manet captured Longchamp's frenzy

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in a flurry of speedy brushstrokes.

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But among the Impressionists, it was Degas, the banker's son,

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who most loved the horsies.

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Degas was looking for new, modern subjects to paint

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and he couldn't really miss Longchamp.

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When the crowd in here gets excited,

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you can hear their roar all the way back to central Paris.

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CROWD ROARS

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Eager Parisians would crowd in here on a Sunday

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and parade, strut, display.

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Degas, though, was more interested

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in the jockeys than the punters.

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The drama of their colours against the landscape.

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Their sudden loomings above you.

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HORSE WHINNIES AND SNORTS

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Now at exactly this time, another influential Englishman,

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the photographer Eadweard Muybridge,

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was also investigating horses.

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Muybridge was trying to solve the ancient mystery

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of a galloping horse.

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How exactly does it move?

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Why, when artists painted it in the past,

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did it always look so wrong?

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HORSE GALLOPS

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To answer these questions,

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Muybridge set up an experiment.

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He arranged a row of cameras along a training field

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and tripwires stretched across the course

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and connected to the cameras.

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The idea was that when a galloping horse passed by here,

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it would trigger a series of extra fast exposures,

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all the way along.

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Flash...flash...flash.

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CAMERA CLICKS

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Picture, picture, picture.

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The moving horse in action was finally frozen, step by step...

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CAMERA CLICKS

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..secret by secret.

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Degas bought Muybridge's book on the animal in motion

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as soon as it came out in France, and he studied it assiduously.

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But I told you he was contrary,

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and what really seemed to fascinate Degas about the horse in motion

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was not how graceful it looked or how powerful,

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the usual horsey cliches,

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but how contorted.

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Later, he made some sculptures which he never showed to anyone.

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No-one knew he'd done them until he died.

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But according to Degas's private sculptures,

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the true secret of the horse's movement

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is that it's awkward, strained and sinewy.

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Not at all graceful.

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This new way of understanding animal movement in Degas's art,

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this harsh new way of looking,

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didn't just apply to horses.

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It applied to people too,

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particularly women.

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WATER SPLASHING

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Muybridge had also photographed women,

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swirling and dancing,

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twisting this way and that.

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Always in action.

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Muybridge's images of moving horses and women

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had an impact on Degas's art that no-one could have predicted.

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They inspired him to start looking at women

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from such awkward angles

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and inspired viewpoints.

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A common reaction to these startling views of stretching prostitutes

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and actresses, twisting, leaning,

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drying themselves in their tubs,

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is that they show Degas deliberately humiliating

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his naked women.

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Forcing them to take up ugly and graceless poses.

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It's certainly true that he was a misogynist.

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"I'd rather keep 100 sheep," he once snapped,

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"Than one outspoken girl."

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Degas had plenty to hide in his feelings about women.

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But I don't think that's what these great pastels are about.

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I don't think these are about humiliation or cruelty.

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They're about something else, something Degas discovered

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in Muybridge's horse book.

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They're about true movement,

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about awkward twisting and ungainly leaning.

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The human body in motion,

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brilliantly observed through the keyhole,

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when it thinks no-one is looking.

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In his horse sculptures,

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Degas seems to see the moving horse in a new kind of 3D.

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And in his ravishing pastels of bathing prostitutes

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and stretching actresses, he looks down at the girls

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from extravagant, 3D viewpoints that art had never chosen before.

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This is more than a new chapter in the story of the nude,

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this is tearing up the old script

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and starting from scratch.

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Everyone knows the Impressionists reinvented the landscape,

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but they should also be credited with reinventing the nude.

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Degas showed in seven

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of the eight Impressionist exhibitions.

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He was surprisingly loyal

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and dedicated to the cause.

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But he had the rebel gene in him

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and it led him astray, whatever he did.

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I mean, look at this, his most audacious attempt

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to paint history.

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What kind of a mind decides

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to put this into an Impressionist exhibition?

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We always imagine ancient Greece to have been the cradle

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of civilisation, a beacon of enlightenment.

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But it wasn't always that,

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particularly where women were concerned.

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When it came to the treatment of women,

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the ancient Greeks were as macho and unreconstructed

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as the Taliban.

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Greek women couldn't go out, they couldn't be educated,

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they couldn't inherit or vote.

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In most of the ancient world, women were treated appallingly.

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Except in one great city state,

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where most things were done differently.

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Sparta.

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Spartan girls were treated as equals,

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brought up to be strong and independent, like the boys.

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No-one is certain what this curious picture actually shows.

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On the label, here at the National Gallery,

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they call it Young Spartans Exercising.

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And it's also known as

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Young Spartans Practising Wrestling.

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But when Degas finally put it

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into the fifth Impressionist Exhibition of 1880,

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he gave it the splendid title

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of Spartan Girls Provoking The Boys.

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And I can't understand, for the life of me,

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why people don't believe him,

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because that's clearly what it shows.

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The girls, on the left,

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provoking the boys, on the right.

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To toughen them up, Spartan girls

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were taught to fight and wrestle.

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They didn't wear much either, whatever the weather.

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And Degas senses the sexual friction

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of these strange classical days.

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The Spartan girls are taunting the boys,

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and the boys, like teenage boys everywhere,

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aren't sure what to do

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when the girls come on to them.

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What a brilliant mix of bravado and gaucheness.

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This boy here, the one on all fours,

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seems particularly in touch with his animal nature.

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It's Degas' response, I think, to all the Darwinism

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that was in the air, these theories of evolution.

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And this rock here is the rock

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from which Spartan babies were said to be thrown to their deaths

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if they were born weak or disabled.

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But the battle between the boys and the girls

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isn't the only combat we witness here.

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There's also a fierce struggle going on

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between the past and the present.

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Degas is deliberately taking on

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one of the most celebrated paintings in the Louvre.

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a masterpiece from the days of the French Revolution -

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David's Oath of the Horatii.

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BATTLE CRIES

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This is always held up as the ultimate piece

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of neo-classical propaganda.

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The heroic Horatii brothers, over here,

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are pledging to give their lives to defend Rome.

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But Degas, in this cheeky update, deliberately

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and cunningly echoes David's composition.

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And everybody looking at this would have seen it immediately.

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And they'd have noticed, too, how Degas' Spartan girls

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look exactly like the wispy, modern girls of Montmartre.

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So much more contemporary and liberated

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and alive than David's frozen Romans.

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In the battle of realities,

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it's ancient Rome, nil, the modern world, one.

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You know that floaty, ethereal quality you get with Degas' art?

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The pulsing fogs of colour?

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There's a bit of it in the Spartan girls,

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and lots of it in the girls in tubs.

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Well, that's the result of experimenting

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with these chalky little magic sticks...

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..pastels.

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It's not just the nudes, all the women in his art -

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the laundresses, the milliners' girls,

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the ballet dancers,

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they all owe some of their intoxicating haziness to the pastel.

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Pastels are rather mysterious.

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You can achieve gorgeous things with them,

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particularly when Degas gets his hands on them,

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but the effects are elusive, dreamy.

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So I want to find out more about them. I want the facts.

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'So I've come to Degas' pastel shop, La Maison Du Pastel.

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'Still here,

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'still selling pastels, still run by the same family.'

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I'm going to ask you a really silly question,

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but I'm going to ask it because I thought I knew the answer,

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but don't really. What exactly are pastels?

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What makes them specifically these lovely things here?

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Pastels is essentially pigment.

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It's pigment to which you add a binder, and different types of

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white powders, clays, to make the different gradations.

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So you have the pure colour, the pure pigment,

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with a little binder, and what makes Roche pastels specific

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is that they have very, very little binder,

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so you have almost colour in its purest form.

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So, this is a beautiful yellow, what's the actual colour?

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-Is it cadmium yellow or...?

-This is a cadmium yellow, yes.

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So, to make the gradations, you just add a little bit of white,

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and it's almost pure pigment.

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All that is is essentially either colour or clay,

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mixed together in different amounts, to make the gradations.

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-Could you show me some of the colours that Degas liked to use?

-Sure.

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-The colours that stick in my mind from his work are, of course, blues.

-The blues...

0:23:290:23:35

So, in the blues, you indeed have these types of blues,

0:23:350:23:37

which you would find in the Blue Dancers, for example.

0:23:370:23:41

-Those are ultramarines.

-Oh!

0:23:410:23:44

See, if I was an artist, I would just put loads of it on.

0:23:440:23:47

Cos look...look at the depth of that colour, it's so exciting.

0:23:470:23:52

You also have a colour which to me is very specific of Degas,

0:23:540:23:59

which is the vert vif.

0:23:590:24:01

Which is this one.

0:24:020:24:04

-Ah, yes, the gorgeous green.

-That you do find in his work.

0:24:040:24:09

There's one missing here, which is the pinks, right?

0:24:090:24:12

-The pinks of all the Ballet Dancers.

-The pinks! Yes, the brilliant pinks.

0:24:120:24:17

You have them here.

0:24:170:24:19

Ah. See, when you see them in this form,

0:24:210:24:23

you see a pile of pastels like this, you can see how the colours

0:24:230:24:28

in pastels seem to sing in a way that they don't with other media,

0:24:280:24:32

-don't they?

-Yes. Actually, that's what I often hear,

0:24:320:24:36

that the colours sing.

0:24:360:24:38

It's essentially because compared to other types of media,

0:24:380:24:42

you have the pigment in its purest form.

0:24:420:24:45

Look at that, you see, it's just pure pigment, it's just gorgeous.

0:24:480:24:53

I'm going to try that blue there, that's Degas blue, isn't it? Look at that!

0:24:530:24:58

-Try this one as well, that has a really specific texture.

-Oh, my God, look at that, oh!

0:24:580:25:02

-It's got this intoxicating quality, hasn't it?

-Mmm.

0:25:020:25:05

FOOTSTEPS

0:25:150:25:18

Degas's most intense examination of women,

0:25:240:25:27

his most productive voyeurism,

0:25:270:25:30

took place not in a bathtub or in Sparta,

0:25:300:25:34

but from a box in the theatre,

0:25:340:25:36

from where he loved to watch the ballet.

0:25:360:25:39

Degas was a regular here at the Paris Opera, the Palais Garnier,

0:25:510:25:55

which opened in 1875

0:25:550:25:58

and quickly became THE place to go.

0:25:580:26:00

It was built chiefly from crystal and mirrors, or so it seemed.

0:26:030:26:07

There was enough baroque ornament in here to furnish the Vatican.

0:26:070:26:13

-Bonjour, messieurs.

-Bonjour.

0:26:180:26:20

The typical bourgeois male

0:26:230:26:25

would be at the Opera a couple of nights a week,

0:26:250:26:28

and they didn't just come for the singing and the dancing.

0:26:280:26:32

These elegant balconies

0:26:320:26:33

and plush foyers were designed for parading in and being seen.

0:26:330:26:39

-Bonjour, monsieur.

-Bonjour.

0:26:440:26:46

While the auditorium itself, which could seat 2,500 people,

0:26:490:26:54

well...that was for voyeurism.

0:26:540:26:58

The ballet was one of the few places

0:27:010:27:03

where the 19th-century bourgeois male

0:27:030:27:05

could admire lightly-clad feminine beauty

0:27:050:27:09

without making it obvious.

0:27:090:27:11

He'd just sink back into the darkness and peep.

0:27:110:27:16

Degas had a season ticket to the Paris Opera.

0:27:180:27:21

He was an obsessive ballet-goer and theatre groupie.

0:27:210:27:25

Some of his most inventive art

0:27:250:27:27

is set in the stalls of the Palais Garnier.

0:27:270:27:31

Sometimes, he'd look up

0:27:320:27:35

through the orchestra to the stage beyond,

0:27:350:27:38

where the lights would work their nocturnal magic.

0:27:380:27:41

More often, though, he'd be up in the boxes,

0:27:460:27:49

looking down at the dancers - the shimmer, the spectacle.

0:27:490:27:53

Interestingly, Degas never painted the stars of the ballet -

0:27:570:28:02

the prima ballerinas, the famous beauties.

0:28:020:28:06

Instead, he preferred the everyday dancers,

0:28:060:28:10

the also-rans from the corps du ballet - the students,

0:28:100:28:15

or ballet rats, as they were disparagingly called.

0:28:150:28:18

And he didn't just paint them.

0:28:260:28:28

In 1881, at the sixth Impressionist exhibition,

0:28:280:28:32

Degas astonished everyone by showing a sculpture.

0:28:320:28:36

It was called The Little Dancer, Aged 14.

0:28:370:28:42

And it was shockingly realistic.

0:28:420:28:45

He'd made it out of wax, painted to look so lifelike,

0:28:460:28:51

with real hair, real clothes.

0:28:510:28:55

He'd even tied her hair with a real ribbon,

0:28:550:28:58

given to him by the model.

0:28:580:29:00

These days, in museums, you can only see bronze casts of it.

0:29:040:29:09

They're very beautiful,

0:29:090:29:12

but they're not as spooky or as revolutionary

0:29:120:29:14

or as lifelike

0:29:140:29:15

as a hand-painted waxwork ballet dancer must have seemed.

0:29:150:29:20

The model was a typical Parisian rat, called Marie van Goethem.

0:29:220:29:27

She was originally from Belgium,

0:29:270:29:30

and when Degas began sculpting her,

0:29:300:29:32

as the title says, she was just 14,

0:29:320:29:36

a ballet student at the Opera.

0:29:360:29:38

Marie lived around the corner from Degas, literally around the corner.

0:29:410:29:45

This was her street, the Rue de Douai,

0:29:450:29:49

and this was his, the Rue Fontaine.

0:29:490:29:52

Like most of the ballet rats,

0:29:530:29:55

she came from a poor and disreputable family.

0:29:550:29:59

Various rumours circulated about her behaviour.

0:29:590:30:03

She was slovenly, they said, coarse.

0:30:030:30:06

Marie would pop round to Degas' studio and pose for him.

0:30:080:30:12

She had beautiful long hair that she was very proud of

0:30:120:30:16

and when she danced, she'd stick out her chin

0:30:160:30:19

so that her hair fell down her back.

0:30:190:30:22

You can see her doing that in a couple of his paintings, as well.

0:30:240:30:28

There's Marie with the hair and the chin.

0:30:280:30:32

Now this position he forces her into in the sculpture

0:30:330:30:37

is very difficult and unnatural.

0:30:370:30:40

He'd pull her hands back as far as they'd go

0:30:400:30:44

and tell her to stick her chin up even higher.

0:30:440:30:48

And her feet were planted weirdly, just so.

0:30:480:30:53

Now, this isn't a dance position, it's not a practice position.

0:30:530:30:59

So what is it?

0:30:590:31:00

The critics reviewing the sixth Impressionist exhibition

0:31:020:31:06

were baffled too.

0:31:060:31:08

"This opera rat has something of the foetus about her,"

0:31:080:31:11

mooned Ellie Dumont in La Civilisation.

0:31:110:31:15

"And one is tempted to enclose her in a jar of alcohol."

0:31:150:31:19

The Gazette Des Beaux-Arts was even nastier about the sculpture.

0:31:210:31:25

"This poor little girl," it spat, "is like an incipient rat,

0:31:250:31:29

"who thrusts her little muzzle forward with bestial effrontery."

0:31:290:31:33

Now there's a startling thought.

0:31:360:31:38

Was Degas deliberately trying to make his little ballet rat

0:31:380:31:43

look like a rat?

0:31:430:31:45

Is the Little Dancer a cruel Darwinian pun

0:31:450:31:48

motivated by harsh and disparaging evolutionary views?

0:31:480:31:55

I hope not, but I can't shake off the suspicion that it might be.

0:31:550:32:00

Degas was a haunter of dark and private bourgeois spaces -

0:32:090:32:14

the bedroom doorway,

0:32:140:32:16

the box at the theatre.

0:32:160:32:19

What you don't get with him is the theatre of the streets.

0:32:190:32:23

For that you need to turn to another of the keenest people watchers

0:32:230:32:27

among the Impressionists, Gustav Caillebotte.

0:32:270:32:32

Caillebotte painted this.

0:32:340:32:37

And this.

0:32:370:32:38

And even this.

0:32:400:32:41

So he really ought to be much better known than he is.

0:32:430:32:47

Caillebotte was unusual because he was so rich.

0:32:490:32:54

Most of the Impressionists came from the petit end

0:32:540:32:58

of the bourgeois scale.

0:32:580:32:59

Monet's father was a grocer,

0:32:590:33:01

Renoir's a tailor.

0:33:010:33:04

The Degas' of course were of higher stock,

0:33:040:33:08

but not as high as they pretended

0:33:080:33:10

when they began calling themselves De Gas.

0:33:100:33:13

Caillebotte, however, didn't have to pretend.

0:33:130:33:17

He was VERY wealthy, VERY bourgeois

0:33:170:33:21

and VERY progressive.

0:33:210:33:24

That's him on the right, in the vest and boater, having fun by the river

0:33:260:33:31

in Renoir's Boating Party.

0:33:310:33:33

That's how Renoir saw him, but it's not how he saw himself.

0:33:340:33:38

This is how he saw himself.

0:33:390:33:41

The Caillebottes made their money

0:33:440:33:46

supplying blankets to the French army.

0:33:460:33:49

The more wars there were, the richer they got.

0:33:490:33:52

After that, they moved into property

0:33:520:33:54

and owned that big house on the corner,

0:33:540:33:57

which they bought directly from Baron Haussmann,

0:33:570:34:00

off-plan, as it were.

0:34:000:34:02

Caillebotte's studio was up on the top floor,

0:34:020:34:05

where that balcony is.

0:34:050:34:08

He was the eldest son and tried being a lawyer first,

0:34:100:34:14

then an engineer.

0:34:140:34:16

But the art bug bit him and he became an Impressionist instead.

0:34:160:34:22

Degas smelled out his money and introduced him to the clan.

0:34:220:34:26

Caillebotte was so rich and pampered,

0:34:300:34:33

he'd have himself transported to his painting locations

0:34:330:34:36

in a specially designed horse and carriage -

0:34:360:34:40

a kind of travelling studio

0:34:400:34:42

which he'd load up with canvases and footmen and off he'd trot.

0:34:420:34:46

Just a few hundred yards down here,

0:34:560:34:59

to the Pont de l'Europe

0:34:590:35:01

where he painted some of Impressionism's most inventive views

0:35:010:35:07

of the new city.

0:35:070:35:08

This was Paris's new gateway to Europe,

0:35:130:35:17

a railway crossroads that leads everywhere.

0:35:170:35:20

Caillebotte shows the new bourgeoisie

0:35:230:35:26

strolling across the new bridge,

0:35:260:35:29

taking in the new possibilities.

0:35:290:35:32

Over here, a posh chap in a top hat

0:35:330:35:37

notices a passing woman.

0:35:370:35:39

She's actually a prostitute and he's a prospective client.

0:35:390:35:45

Over here, a thoughtful workman dreams of another life

0:35:470:35:52

somewhere else.

0:35:520:35:53

Everything was possible on the Pont de l'Europe,

0:35:550:35:59

but only in your dreams.

0:35:590:36:02

Caillebotte's greatest painting of the area was done just up here

0:36:080:36:13

in the Place de Dublin, Dublin Square.

0:36:130:36:17

It's called Rainy Day At The Pont De L'Europe.

0:36:170:36:22

The new rich stroll around the new Paris

0:36:240:36:27

in a new spot of rain.

0:36:270:36:29

And how crisp and clean their city now looks.

0:36:310:36:35

How open and airy and thrilling.

0:36:350:36:38

The perspective in that picture is deliberately exaggerated

0:36:410:36:44

to make it more dramatic.

0:36:440:36:46

Caillebotte is trying to make Paris look taller,

0:36:460:36:49

bigger than it really is, so he looks up at it in a wide-angled way.

0:36:490:36:54

The camera can do something similar.

0:36:540:36:57

Oh, and if you go down lower, look up at me...

0:36:570:37:00

..and there you have it.

0:37:020:37:04

The Caillebotte effect.

0:37:040:37:06

Caillebotte loved unusual viewpoints and deep, dramatic perspectives.

0:37:110:37:17

His pictures tease your eyes and stretch them.

0:37:190:37:23

What difficult positions he found to perch in.

0:37:240:37:27

I have this image wedged in my brain

0:37:300:37:32

of Caillebotte being transported luxuriously

0:37:320:37:36

from location to location

0:37:360:37:38

in his pimped-up painting carriage.

0:37:380:37:41

100 yards here, 100 yards there.

0:37:410:37:44

But some of his most radical art was painted without going anywhere.

0:37:440:37:50

Back here in the house itself.

0:37:500:37:53

One of Impressionism's most striking pictures was made in here.

0:37:550:38:00

It was shown at the second Impressionist exhibition of 1876.

0:38:000:38:05

And people weren't at all sure what to make of it.

0:38:050:38:10

They're still not sure today.

0:38:100:38:12

It's called The Floor Scrapers

0:38:140:38:16

and it shows three chaps with their tops off

0:38:160:38:19

scraping away at a wooden floor.

0:38:190:38:22

It's a tense, puzzling picture with its plunging perspective

0:38:250:38:30

and these wiry, dramatic poses.

0:38:300:38:32

Caillebotte's father died in 1874

0:38:360:38:40

leaving his son a huge fortune,

0:38:400:38:44

so Caillebotte junior, our Caillebotte,

0:38:440:38:46

set about altering the house

0:38:460:38:48

and The Floor Scrapers

0:38:480:38:50

probably shows the refurbishment of his new studio,

0:38:500:38:54

the one on the top floor with the balcony.

0:38:540:38:57

What's actually going on?

0:39:020:39:05

Well, one of the men is scraping off the old varnish

0:39:050:39:09

with a cabinet scraper.

0:39:090:39:11

One of these. A simple tool.

0:39:140:39:17

This edge here is sharp and you scrape it across the floor,

0:39:170:39:21

smoothing it down.

0:39:210:39:23

The other guy has one of these, a plane.

0:39:230:39:28

He's planing down the joints between the floorboards,

0:39:300:39:34

leaving a stripy floor.

0:39:340:39:36

Now this is just about the first portrayal in art

0:39:380:39:42

of the urban workman.

0:39:420:39:43

Artists had shown peasants in the fields before,

0:39:430:39:47

but not city workers.

0:39:470:39:49

This was new.

0:39:490:39:52

However, a couple of things about this picture have always puzzled me.

0:39:520:39:57

For instance, why do they need to make the floor so stripy?

0:39:570:40:03

Why don't they just clean the floor...

0:40:050:40:07

..in big patches?

0:40:090:40:12

I found the answer on YouTube,

0:40:140:40:17

preserved in full shaky YouTube vision.

0:40:170:40:21

Here's a chap in California preparing a hardwood floor.

0:40:210:40:26

I emailed the company, and asked them,

0:40:260:40:29

why do you do the floor in stripes?

0:40:290:40:31

They wrote back that it was to make sure the whole floor was even.

0:40:320:40:38

If you did it in patches,

0:40:380:40:40

you might plane down more of the wood over here,

0:40:400:40:43

and less of it over here.

0:40:430:40:45

So the whole floor...

0:40:450:40:47

would undulate.

0:40:470:40:49

My other question was even more pressing.

0:40:510:40:54

Why is the floor being scraped at all?

0:40:540:40:57

The old varnish looks fine, doesn't it?

0:40:570:41:00

It's almost new.

0:41:000:41:01

The floor's in good condition.

0:41:010:41:04

So why is the varnish being removed?

0:41:040:41:06

I just couldn't work it out.

0:41:080:41:10

Till I asked my wife, who's an artist, and she said,

0:41:100:41:13

if it's his new studio,

0:41:130:41:15

he'd want the floor to be as light as possible.

0:41:150:41:19

Studio floors are never dark.

0:41:190:41:22

Artists always want as much light in there

0:41:220:41:25

as they can get.

0:41:250:41:27

This isn't just a painting of the new heroes of modern life,

0:41:290:41:33

the urban workman throwing off his top and flashing his torso.

0:41:330:41:38

The Floor Scrapers has a hidden meaning, too.

0:41:390:41:43

Caillebotte is trying to say something about art itself.

0:41:480:41:53

The new art of the Impressionists.

0:41:530:41:56

The old art was artificial,

0:41:560:42:00

dark and covered in thick varnish.

0:42:000:42:04

But the new art - Impressionist art -

0:42:040:42:07

is natural, truthful

0:42:070:42:10

and filled with light.

0:42:100:42:12

Caillebotte's indoor masterpiece

0:42:120:42:15

isn't just a tribute to the urban worker.

0:42:150:42:18

It's a call to arms.

0:42:180:42:21

The catalogues for the Impressionist exhibitions.

0:42:290:42:32

Humble-looking things, aren't they?

0:42:320:42:35

But don't be fooled by their modesty.

0:42:350:42:38

These are records of a revolution in behaviour

0:42:380:42:42

as well as an artistic revolt.

0:42:420:42:45

And see here. Mademoiselle Berthe Morisot, a woman.

0:42:470:42:52

That in itself was rebellious and different,

0:42:520:42:55

to have a woman in the ranks.

0:42:550:42:57

You can always tell a Morisot painting,

0:42:590:43:02

because it'll definitely be

0:43:020:43:04

the wildest and bravest thing in the room.

0:43:040:43:07

Just look at her crazy brushstrokes,

0:43:090:43:12

zigzagging across the canvas like lightning bolts.

0:43:120:43:16

These flickering, darting paint flashes

0:43:160:43:19

are some of the bravest markings of the Impressionist revolution.

0:43:190:43:24

So new, so quick.

0:43:240:43:27

Unfortunately, Berthe Morisot had a problem.

0:43:310:43:34

She looked like this.

0:43:340:43:37

Stunning.

0:43:370:43:39

She turned men's heads, and when they painted her,

0:43:400:43:43

as Manet often did,

0:43:430:43:45

the poor, besotted chappies

0:43:450:43:47

would imagine her to be a dark-eyed femme fatale.

0:43:470:43:52

And they'd ignore what a serious

0:43:530:43:56

and instinctive and insightful painter she was.

0:43:560:43:59

Morisot was particularly good with white.

0:44:080:44:12

Such a difficult colour to dramatise and differentiate.

0:44:140:44:18

It's so hard to look deep when your work is as crisp

0:44:190:44:23

and fresh as a wedding dress in the snow.

0:44:230:44:28

But if anyone imagines Berthe Morisot's work

0:44:290:44:32

to be docile or domestic or pretty,

0:44:320:44:36

then I'm afraid you're standing too far away.

0:44:360:44:40

The best place to look at her art is from about here.

0:44:430:44:47

About two inches away.

0:44:470:44:49

From this close,

0:44:510:44:53

the sense of revolution here thwacks you between the eyes.

0:44:530:44:57

Another female painter who appeared in these shows, Mary Cassatt,

0:45:020:45:05

was an American.

0:45:050:45:07

To be honest with you, I didn't rate Cassatt's work that highly,

0:45:070:45:11

until I started filming it for these programmes.

0:45:110:45:15

I thought it was too sweet, too obviously feminine.

0:45:160:45:20

But how wrong I was.

0:45:200:45:22

Look how spooky she is, how psychological.

0:45:220:45:26

That air of emotional blankness which Cassatt captures,

0:45:270:45:32

that sense you get with her sitters

0:45:320:45:34

that they're on a far-away journey deep inside themselves.

0:45:340:45:39

These are insights into the emotional states of women

0:45:390:45:43

that Virginia Woolf would be proud of.

0:45:430:45:46

Today, Cassatt and Morisot are highly regarded.

0:45:530:45:57

But there was a third woman artist

0:45:570:46:00

who played an interesting part in Impressionism,

0:46:000:46:03

whom you never hear about,

0:46:030:46:05

though she, too, was a revolutionary.

0:46:050:46:08

Her name was Marie Bracquemond, and she made Impressionist pots.

0:46:100:46:15

I bet you didn't even know there were any.

0:46:150:46:17

Finding out about Marie Bracquemond has been tricky.

0:46:200:46:24

She showed in three of the Impressionist exhibitions,

0:46:240:46:27

but has largely disappeared from the story of art.

0:46:270:46:30

And that's wrong, because Marie Bracquemond was really good.

0:46:310:46:36

Her pots are luscious and stirring.

0:46:380:46:42

She has just having a go at transferring

0:46:420:46:44

the joie de vivre of the Impressionists

0:46:440:46:47

from the field to the plate.

0:46:470:46:49

From the garden to the mantelpiece.

0:46:490:46:53

But it's Marie Bracquemond's paintings that intrigue me most.

0:46:580:47:02

They're deceptively intense and have an edge of loneliness to them.

0:47:020:47:08

Here's one of her picnics,

0:47:090:47:11

to which Impressionism's joie de vivre was clearly not invited.

0:47:110:47:17

Where no one talks and everyone frets.

0:47:180:47:21

Bracquemond, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt.

0:47:260:47:30

This is the first group of impressive women in art.

0:47:300:47:34

Of course, there had been women artists before,

0:47:340:47:37

but they'd been one-offs, who appeared here and there.

0:47:370:47:41

Impressionism was progressive enough to welcome a gang of them at once.

0:47:410:47:46

An important new voice has arrived in art,

0:47:490:47:52

with different things to say and different understandings.

0:47:520:47:56

Some people think Impressionism was shallow, but it never was.

0:47:560:48:02

Not in the hands of its women.

0:48:020:48:05

Do you know who made that?

0:48:170:48:20

I'm going to cover up the label. Have a guess.

0:48:200:48:23

Which famous Impressionist made that?

0:48:230:48:27

Monet?

0:48:270:48:29

Pissarro?

0:48:290:48:31

Renoir, perhaps? It is very elegant.

0:48:310:48:34

Actually, this was made by Gauguin.

0:48:360:48:39

It's a portrait of his wife,

0:48:410:48:42

and he showed it at the fifth Impressionist exhibition of 1880.

0:48:420:48:48

This is probably the first carving that Gauguin ever made.

0:48:520:48:57

He was one of those annoyingly talented people,

0:48:570:49:00

who could turn their hand to most things.

0:49:000:49:03

And for the first half of his career,

0:49:030:49:06

Gauguin turned his hand to Impressionism.

0:49:060:49:10

People always get Gauguin wrong.

0:49:130:49:16

They've heard these stories about him deserting his wife and children,

0:49:160:49:20

running off to Tahiti and taking up with the native girls.

0:49:200:49:25

And they forget that Gauguin was already 43

0:49:250:49:30

when he left for Tahiti.

0:49:300:49:32

A big chunk of his career was behind him.

0:49:320:49:36

And during that big chunk,

0:49:360:49:39

Gauguin was an Impressionist.

0:49:390:49:42

He showed in five of the eight Impressionist exhibitions,

0:49:450:49:49

which is more than Renoir, and the same number as Monet.

0:49:490:49:53

This is his first ever self-portrait.

0:49:550:49:59

Painted on the back

0:49:590:50:01

of an Impressionist view of Pissarro's garden.

0:50:010:50:06

Gauguin's Impressionist landscapes are so subtle, modest.

0:50:090:50:14

Too modest, almost. They're easy to overlook.

0:50:140:50:17

You'd hardly know they're by him.

0:50:170:50:19

But this isn't a film about landscapes,

0:50:190:50:22

this is a film about people.

0:50:220:50:25

And Gauguin, the people painter,

0:50:270:50:31

is a very particular and intimate presence.

0:50:310:50:35

Loving father, family man, caring portrayer of those he was close to.

0:50:380:50:44

Particularly his wife and his children.

0:50:440:50:49

Gauguin's paintings of his family are so tender and atmospheric.

0:50:490:50:54

This one's called The Little One Is Dreaming.

0:50:540:50:59

It's his four-year-old daughter Aline, asleep in her cot.

0:50:590:51:04

Now, I'm a dad, too,

0:51:040:51:06

so I know exactly what he's trying to capture here.

0:51:060:51:10

The little girl is sleeping, far away in the land of nod.

0:51:120:51:17

While her dad looks down at her so protectively.

0:51:170:51:21

You can almost sense him pulling up her blanket

0:51:210:51:25

to cover her legs

0:51:250:51:27

and trying to imagine Aline's dreams.

0:51:270:51:30

He showed it at the seventh Impressionist exhibition of 1882.

0:51:320:51:36

And it stood out, because it was so atmospheric and personal.

0:51:360:51:42

No-one had ever painted a sleeping child like this before.

0:51:420:51:47

The floaty wallpaper seems to stand in

0:51:500:51:53

for the peaceful dream she's having.

0:51:530:51:55

A beautiful bird dream.

0:51:550:51:57

But this Punch figure here, dangling by her cot,

0:51:570:52:01

he has something threatening about him.

0:52:010:52:06

He's a nasty gnome of the night, waiting for his moment.

0:52:060:52:10

But it doesn't matter, Aline, because your dad's here.

0:52:100:52:15

And he's watching over you.

0:52:150:52:18

What tenderness, what warmth,

0:52:180:52:21

what obvious family love.

0:52:210:52:24

This marble bust of Gauguin's eldest son, Emile,

0:52:240:52:28

was shown at the third Impressionist exhibition of 1876.

0:52:280:52:33

And here's another son - the long-haired Clovis,

0:52:330:52:38

asleep again, next to his dad's favourite tankard.

0:52:380:52:43

Dreaming, perhaps, because he's had a sip.

0:52:430:52:47

And this is Mette, Gauguin's Danish wife,

0:52:510:52:54

painted in a gorgeous evening dress she couldn't afford.

0:52:540:52:58

And which she bought on the never-never, without telling him.

0:52:580:53:02

But he still turns her, so lovingly,

0:53:020:53:06

into his fairy princess.

0:53:060:53:08

Mette was from here - Copenhagen.

0:53:110:53:13

She was in Paris working as a teacher when she met Gauguin.

0:53:130:53:17

And he was a successful stockbroker.

0:53:170:53:21

A good catch.

0:53:210:53:23

What Mette didn't know

0:53:230:53:25

was that he'd already been bitten by the art bug.

0:53:250:53:29

And what Gauguin really wanted to be

0:53:290:53:32

was an artist.

0:53:320:53:34

Poor Mette thought she was marrying a respectable businessman

0:53:350:53:40

who'd keep her in the beautiful dresses she wanted

0:53:400:53:44

and the beautiful homes.

0:53:440:53:45

Instead, she'd ended up with a repressed Bohemian

0:53:450:53:49

who was desperate to become an artist.

0:53:490:53:53

Mette put up with him for years and watched him throw away his career.

0:53:550:54:01

She bore him five children until eventually,

0:54:010:54:05

unable to face up to any more of this artistic poverty

0:54:050:54:09

he'd wished upon her,

0:54:090:54:10

she left him and came back here, to Copenhagen, with the kids.

0:54:100:54:15

Gauguin was devastated.

0:54:170:54:18

His wife had deserted him and he missed her terribly.

0:54:180:54:22

And the children, even more.

0:54:220:54:25

So he followed her here to Copenhagen

0:54:270:54:30

and tried to put things right

0:54:300:54:32

by getting himself a job as a tarpaulin salesman.

0:54:320:54:37

Selling French tarpaulins to the Danes.

0:54:370:54:42

There are so many things that Gauguin was good at.

0:54:420:54:46

Sculpture,

0:54:460:54:47

painting,

0:54:470:54:49

ceramics,

0:54:490:54:50

printmaking.

0:54:500:54:53

But not at selling tarpaulins.

0:54:530:54:57

In his downtime, of which there was plenty, he started painting again.

0:54:570:55:01

And with frozen fingers,

0:55:010:55:04

he recorded the cold but pretty local landscape.

0:55:040:55:09

A first attempt at Impressionism in Denmark.

0:55:090:55:13

This is the first place they lived, with Mette's mother.

0:55:270:55:31

But he didn't like her, and she didn't like him.

0:55:310:55:34

So the Gauguins moved on.

0:55:340:55:36

This is the second place they lived.

0:55:390:55:41

Mette had to start teaching again here, to make some money.

0:55:410:55:46

And this is the third place.

0:55:460:55:49

It's quite posh now,

0:55:490:55:51

but this used to be the bad bit of Copenhagen,

0:55:510:55:55

with the cheapest rents.

0:55:550:55:57

And it was about now, in the grim spring of 1885,

0:56:010:56:06

that Gauguin painted his first proper self-portrait.

0:56:060:56:10

A deceptively colourful study in alienation and forlornness.

0:56:110:56:17

No-one was sure where it was painted

0:56:220:56:24

until I came up here a few years ago

0:56:240:56:27

and found this flat,

0:56:270:56:29

right at the top of the house.

0:56:290:56:32

When Gauguin was living here, this used to be the attic.

0:56:360:56:40

And he'd come up here to paint and to worry.

0:56:400:56:44

He even wrote a letter to Pissarro,

0:56:440:56:46

telling him things had gotten so bad in Copenhagen

0:56:460:56:49

that he was thinking of hanging himself

0:56:490:56:52

up here in this attic.

0:56:520:56:55

And the self-portrait was painted by this window,

0:56:550:57:00

just here.

0:57:000:57:01

What rotten, rotten times these were.

0:57:040:57:07

"I'm without a penny and up to my ears in shit,"

0:57:070:57:11

he wrote to a friend.

0:57:110:57:13

"So I console myself by dreaming."

0:57:130:57:16

He lasted six months in Copenhagen

0:57:170:57:20

before Mette's family turned around and asked him to leave.

0:57:200:57:25

He wasn't respectable enough for her, or reliable enough,

0:57:250:57:29

or rich enough.

0:57:290:57:31

Gauguin hurried back to Paris.

0:57:330:57:35

Back to being an Impressionist.

0:57:350:57:39

Having been kicked out by his family,

0:57:390:57:41

he was now free to become all sorts of things.

0:57:410:57:46

But never again a loyal husband or a caring dad.

0:57:460:57:51

Back in Paris,

0:57:530:57:55

the Impressionists were preparing themselves

0:57:550:57:59

for their eighth and final exhibition.

0:57:590:58:02

Gauguin was hoping to make an impact with his new Danish paintings.

0:58:020:58:09

And he would have done, I'm sure,

0:58:090:58:11

if THIS hadn't been in the show as well.

0:58:110:58:15

But you'll have to wait till the next film to see what happened,

0:58:150:58:20

when we voyage to the end of Impressionism

0:58:200:58:24

and beyond.

0:58:240:58:26

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:340:58:39

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:390:58:43

Waldemar Januszczak continues his investigation of the Impressionists, focusing this time on the people they painted and in particular the subjects of Degas, Caillebotte and the often forgotten Impressionist women artists. The Impressionists are famous for painting landscape but they were just as determined to paint people. Looking closely at one of Impressionism's finest painters, Edgar Degas, Waldemar reveals how he consistently challenged traditions and strove to record real life as it appeared in the city, from sculpting the contorted movements of horses in motion at the Longchamp race course in Paris to encapsulating extravagant 3D viewpoints of the ballet dancers at the Paris Opera. Waldemar also uncovers the intoxicating haziness the pastel produced in Degas' work when visiting his supplier Pastels de Roche. He also reveals the unusual viewpoints and dramatic perspectives of Caillebotte's paintings from the Place de L'Europe and the rebellious and revolutionary art of Morisot, Bracquemond and Cassatt, three impressive female artists who were eagerly embraced by the progressive movement of Impressionism.


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