Peter Schjeldahl reviews Frédéric Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism at the National Gallery, Washington, D.C., on view through July 9, 2017.
Schjeldahl writes: “What makes the show great is the point of view that it affords not only on the birth of Impressionism but also on the general dawning of modernist sentiments and sensibilities. Bazille serves as our stand-in throughout a crisply dramatic installation, by the National Gallery curator Kimberly A. Jones, which incorporates apposite paintings by, among others, Corot, Courbet, Manet, Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Fantin-Latour, and Morisot. Bazille’s parallels and responses to those artists amount to a critical index of a moment when the course of art was feverishly contested and its future was trackless. All were rebels against academic conventions and aristocratic propriety, amid cascading social changes.”