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In 1892 Degas painting In the Café was sold for a mere 180 guineas at auction, with the public hissing as the hammer fell. Less than a century later another Impressionist work, Renoirs Moulin de la Galette, sold at Sothebys for $78 million, accompanied by enthusiastic applause. In this history-cum-memoir Philip Hook, Senior Director of Sothebys Impressionist and Modern Art department, examines the publics change of heart toward Impressionism. Starting with its shocking novelty and confounding style, he traces the impact of the Impressionist painting as it spread to Germany, America, and Great Britain, polarizing modernists and conservatives. Equally fascinating is the story of Impressionisms change in status. More than exceptionally pretty pictures, Impressionist works have become a currency in their own right, being bought and sold like blue-chip stock - coveted as much for their monetary worth as for their intrinsic beauty. Drawn from Hooks own experiences with art collectors and dealers, this fascinating chapter in art history is narrated through the lens of todays art market.
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