The splendor of nineteenth-century French painting is so much a part of that epoch that it is almost easy to overlook the fact that painting was going on elsewhere during that time. This is, of course, an exaggeration. Even the most dilatory student of art history can name a few nineteenth-century painters of distinction working outside of France: Constable and Turner in England, for instance, or maybe Homer in the United States. Yet there can be no denying the pre-eminence of French painting in that century, as well as at the beginning of our own. The extraordinary confluence of talent and genius that was Impressionism alone is all but inconceivable to us today, inured, as we are, to a culture predicated on the gratifications of irony and spectacle.

Catalogue essayists, by their very nature, are cheerleaders of a sort.

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