Yesterday’s Leicester vs Everton match was never going to be a work of art, even by the hyperbolic standards of the Premier League, which can generally find majesty in an advertising hoarding.
Indeed, thirty minutes in it was over, with Leicester two up and Everton crossly bumping into each other, leaving TalkSport’s commentator Sam Matterface and pundit Joey Barton (still labelled in the Shutterstock photo library as an aging drag queen) with an utter paucity of drama in the second half.
Rather than dutifully plod through the literal “Mahrez…back to Morgan…Mahrez again” conventional form of radio word painting, Barton grabbed the mike, and ignoring virtually an entire 45 minutes of play, gave the listener a composition entitled “Why David Unsworth should not be the next Everton manager.”
Personal (“look at him on the touchline, he looks like a steward”), intimate (“he was Everton’s most immobile ever left back… chipping the ball 20 yards down the line straight to the opposition…when I had a season ticket.”) and fearlessly confrontational (“Overweight PE teacher…makes Alan Brazil look like an athlete…shouldn’t be in charge of a men’s team…this is the jungle!”) he left the listener in no doubt that they had until now been looking at football from entirely the wrong perspective.
Who could fail to see the connection here between the first Impressionists in 1860s France, working quickly and spontaneously in the open air, in violent contrast to the plodding studio-bound establishment obsessed with realism (represented here by Philip Neville, in the Match of the Day 2 studio, who unimaginatively thought Everton had played quite well and completely missed the real story on the touchline)?
Indeed, the Tate’s own website describes the Impressionists as having a “greater awareness of light and colour” (there was certainly little on the pitch worth remarking on. Everton even wore grey.)
And their observation that the Impressionists’ “brushwork became rapid and broken into separate dabs” also spookily evokes the relentless, almost deranged style of Barton, who felt the need to repeat many of his comments more than once, building layers of substance rather than literal description.
Of course, the first use of the word “Impressionism” was as an insult, with the critic Louis Leroy dismissing Monet’s work Impression, Sunrise with the haughty diss, “Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.”
But for all those conservatives filling the papers today (here, here and here) with their condescending take on Barton’s creativity, they should remember that it takes a real leap of imagination to understand how radical a movement impressionism was.
And that no one remembers who came before.