My Image

Episode 18 - How to Launch an Art Movement:
The Impressionists in the Franco-Prussian War

Uploaded: 11 June 2018

This episode finds us in the heart of one of Europe's great powers during the end of the 1860s. Napoleon III is in charge and the Carnival Empire is at its height.

In July of 1870, France rather ill-advisedly went to war with Prussia, Europe's menacing new power. In the ensuing chaos, lives were turned upside-down... but what did this mean for art?

The conflict erupted just as a gang of new kids had arrived on the block - The Impressionists. Their atmospheric take on everyday scenes and their quirky techniques outraged the old guard at the Salon. The established purpose of Art was to glorify and deify - anything from heroic battles to romanticised figures of France past. The Impressionists painted everything and anything and the Salon of the Second Empire rejected it almost automatically.

So is it possible that an Emperor-toppling war, deadly siege and city rebellion may have done more to boost this new "Impressionism" than any other event?

Further sources:


Impressionism: A Centenary Exhibition,​​​​​https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Impressionism_A_Centenary_Exhibition#​​​​​​​
R. King, The Judgement of Paris, 

Download MP3

Listen on Anchor

Full access includes our regular Dispatches email and episode updates

Subscribe on iTunes