Commonly reproduced images of paintings (on postcards, posters, refrigerator magnets, tote bags, calendars, screensavers, etc.) never prepare one for the singular power and sheer presence of the actual canvas viewed up close. Now, we've all seen countless reproductions of French Impressionist works in particular, but for the real thing head to the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (314-721-0072 or www.slam.org) for its major new exhibit, Impressionist France: Visions of A Nation from Le Gray to Monet. The show focuses on the fertile relationship between landscape and national identity during an especially tumultuous period in France's history, one which saw the nation fundamentally transformed. One-hundred-and-twenty paintings and photographs are on loan from 37 arts institutions in the U.S. and Europe; furthermore, the exhibit was timed to coincide with the ongoing local celebrations of St. Louis' founding 250 years ago by French settlers. Impressionist France is on display Tuesday through Monday (March 16 through July 14). Advance tickets for this show are strongly recommended, and prices are $10 to $14. The exhibit is free on Fridays, though tickets are still required.
Tuesdays-Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fridays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Mon., July 14, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Starts: March 16. Continues through July 13, 2014