HomepageTo adequately recognize the modernity and singularity of their cosmopolitan tastes, it is important to situate the Davies' choices historically and to locate them against the belated reception and limited appreciation of French Impressionism in Britain. Put briefly, the English reception of French Impressionism was by comparison with other European nations (notably Germany) and North America, extremely late and highly partial. While the first Impressionist works were seen by London audiences in Paul Durand's December 1870 exhibition, the London branch of Durand-Ruel closed for financial reasons--mainly lack of sales--in late 1875. Although Impressionist works were exhibited regularly (if in relatively small numbers) at private dealers, at international exhibitions and in international group shows in London (and although many British artists and art audiences traveled to Paris to see such work) the most extensive display of Impressionism only occurred in Durand-Ruel's 1905 Grafton Gallery show of three hundred and fifteen exhibits which attracted eleven thousand visitors and generated extensive press coverage. Yet despite mainly favorable reviews, few works were sold.
To try and counter the reticence of state-sponsored patronage of modern French art, in January 1905 the art critic Frank Rutter established a well-publicized 'Impressionist Fund' to purchase Monet's Snow Effect at Vetheuil (Lavacourt, Winter 1881) for the nation. The appeal was unsuccessful raising only one hundred and sixty pounds and leaving the only Impressionist work in a London museum collection as Degas' The Ballet scene from "Robert Le Diable" (1876) given by Constantine Ionides in 1900 to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum).
Faced with this lack of governmental support, in 1907 Hugh Lane offered oil painting reproduction on canvas from his collection on extended loan to the National Gallery, London as part of a move to establish a representative collection of modern European art in the city. The offer was initially refused outright. However, in 1913 Lane repeated it again and as the result of a later compromise brokered in 1914, fifteen of the Lane works were accepted (although paintings by Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro were still refused). Embarrassed by the international prestige which French art had received from American, German, and French patrons and museums, by 1914 it was widely agreed by art writers and critics that there was an urgent need for contemporary foreign (conspicuously French) art to be better represented within the British national collections. This view was reinforced by the findings of the government-initiated National Gallery Committee published in March 1914, which recommended the extension of the Tate Gallery to accommodate such work (although plans for this were delayed by the onset of the Great War in 1914).