Musée d’Orsay Revisits the First Impressionist Exhibition—With a V.R. Boost

Featured image: The exterior of the building that held the exhibition in 1874. Photo: Musée d’Orsay.

The story of Impressionism’s birth has been told so often, it’s more myth than historic event. Generally, the tale goes something like this: in 1874, a ragtag gang of disaffected artists reject the Paris Salon by staging an alternative exhibition, critics lambast the art, and the ‘impressionism’ movement is born.

It’s an inaccurate simplification, one the Musée d’Orsay is keen to counter and complicate in an encyclopedic new exhibition “Paris 1874: Inventing Impressionism.” The show arrives 150 years on from that exhibition and together with Washington’s National Gallery of Art, which will host the show in the Fall, the curators stress the primacy of context.

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