The most effective antidote to the dour astringency of the Gerhard Richter retrospective this spring was probably a trip to Boston to see “Impressionist Still Life.”1 Before anyone says anything about the salutary effect of exhibitions with “Impressionist” in the title on museum revenues, I would like to point out that this one, at least, was not just another crowdpleasing potpourri of everyone’s favorite pictures, but a closely reasoned celebration of painting as painting, as intelligent as it was delectable. “Impressionist Still Life” could, admittedly, make even the most jaded museumgoer sigh with delight with its assembly of tasty textbook icons and unexpected zingers, but at the same time, it allowed (or forced) fresh considerations of the role of subject...


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