I started watching a three-part mini-series from 2006 called The Impressionists. The premise is that a reporter visits Giverny and interviews Claude Monet when he is an old man, and Monet reminisces about his past.
Richard Armitage plays Claude Monet in his younger years, and (from Wikipedia):
...Monet describes his fellow artists and supporters with whom he struggled and shared so much: Bazille, played by James Lance, the little known genius who died too soon to enjoy the movement's success; Renoir, played by Charlie Condou, an irrepressible lover and painter of women; Manet, played by Andrew Havill whose work was Monet's first inspiration, but was censored by society; Degas, played by Aden Gillett, who captured the back stage reality of the ballet world; Cézanne, played by Will Keen, whose innovative work determined the path of modern art. Amanda Root plays Alice Hoschedé, Monet's great love.
I loved Bazille as portrayed in episode 1--sadly he dies in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, but he was vibrant, enthusiastic, generous, and talented. The war scenes are pretty thin, though, but they are more than made up for by the Parisian street scenes and the lush, vibrant outdoor painting scenes.
I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the artists, their pushing against the straitjacket of the art world of the time, and their exuberance in finding new modes of expressing their vision. In particular, I loved seeing the paintings of the same scene by various artists. I also enjoyed the way Monet dressed--no staid blacks or browns for him, he's always decked out in yellow, blue or red!
I've always really liked Impressionist paintings, but never really knew much about the lives of the painters or their interactions with each other. This series claims to be a factual drama, based on letters, newspaper clippings, etc. rather than a screenwriter's fancy. Here's what the BBC had to say about it when it came out in 2006.
Watching the mini-series is a bit like moving through a museum, looking at the exhibits, listening to the audio, and reading the notes--it's leisurely, enriching, satisfying, and visually stimulating. I'm glad the BBC went this route with this subject matter--it fits, it works, and I'm looking forward to episode 2 tonight.