Can you believe it? Impressionism, long believed a revolt against academic painting, was inspired by the polluted air of 19th-century Paris and London.

So says a study conducted by climate scientists at the National Academy of Science. Their research indicates that Impressionists painted what they saw. And what they saw was smog.

To the contrary

This is a case of science butting into art’s business and getting it wrong. History makes clear the cause for the rise of Impressionism’s signature mistiness, and it wasn’t smog.

The cause was dissatisfaction with polished, academic techniques.

Artists seeking to liberate art from the past abandoned their studios to paint outdoors.

As the art historian Phoebe Pool pointed out in her 1967 book “Impressionism”: “When artists began working outdoors, they became interested in light and its effect on a scene.” See? No mention of smog.

Contending that Impressionists blurred their imagery because pollution blurred their vision is like saying these artists were mindless cameras filming what they saw.

Besides, Claude Monet, one of the artists in the climate study, could not have been documenting smog in his 1904 painting “House of Parliament at Sunset.” Why not?

Look at the nearly obliterated House of Parliament in Monet’s painting and ask yourself, would pollution from the Industrial Revolution have been that dense in 1904 to practically render a large building invisible?

The climate scientists overlooked a huge factor that could blur a view – water.

The House of Parliament sits on the banks of the Thames, and the shimmering reflection of a setting sun was what bathed the light to mist, not smog.

You can see the same mistiness from light reflecting water in the river behind Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” which was painted some four centuries before the Industrial Revolution.

Light was such a key focus to Monet that he often painted the same subject at different times of the day to capture the changing light. He made fifty versions of Waterloo Bridge, London. Again, water played a part.

And by engulfing the Waterloo bridge in light, Monet created the gauzy aura called Impressionism. Again, smog had nothing to do with it.

As Marthe De Fels noted in her 1929 book “La vie de Claude Monet” when the artist was asked what led him to become an Impressionist, he replied: “I did not become one. Ever since I have known myself, I have always been one.”

And get this. A 2014 Scientific American Magazine report on climate change seen in Old Master paintings of sunsets contradicts the current report from the National Academy of Science.

Seeing Red

The earlier study says the redder the sunset, the more pollution there is in the air. How is it, then, that the sunset in Monet’s “House of Parliament at Sunset” is not bright red?

One of the proofs used in the current study also makes a questionable case for saying that air pollution gave Impressionism its signature haze.

Peter Huybers of Harvard University, quoted a letter that Monet wrote saying: “The thing I like best about London is the fog.”

What are they teaching at Harvard these days? Since when is fog (a cloud of water droplets) the same as smog (atmospheric pollutants)?

Anna Lea Albright of the Sorbonne University, who researched the relationship between pollution and Impressionism with Huybers, came to a more careful conclusion.

Albright said the study is only intended as a “complimentary expanding” of what art history already says about Impressionism.

“Expanding”? No. Contracting is the better word to describe a study that minimizes Impressionism as smog.