The impressionist style of painting is characterized
chiefly by concentration on the general impression produced by a scene or
object and the use of unmixed primary colors and small strokes to simulate
actual reflected light.
French Impressionnisme, a
major movement, first in painting and later in music, that developed chiefly in
France during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Impressionist painting
comprises the work produced between about 1867 and 1886 by a group of artists
who shared a set of related approaches and techniques. The most conspicuous
characteristic of Impressionism was an attempt to accurately and objectively
record visual reality in terms of transient effects of light and colour. The
principal Impressionist painters were Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir,
Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin, and
Frйdйric Bazille, who worked together, influenced each other, and exhibited
together independently. Edgar Degas and Paul Cйzanne also painted in an
Impressionist style for a time in the early 1870s. The established painter Йdouard
Manet, whose work in the 1860s greatly influenced Monet and others of the
group, himself adopted the Impressionist approach about 1873.
l'impressionnisme est nй de la contemplation et de l'imitation des impressions
claires du Japon.
Ed. et J. de Goncourt, Journal,
19 avr. 1884.
rйalitй l'Impressionnisme est multiple: le terme si critiquй est surtout
mauvais parce qu'on l'emploie tantфt dans un sens large, tantфt dans un sens
йtroit. Il y a l'impressionnisme de Manet qui peint clair. Il y a celui de
Manet encore et de Degas qui spйcule sur l'emploi d'une nouvelle perspective.
Il y a celui de Pissarro et de Renoir qui se fondent sur le plein air et
l'emploi des tons purs. Il y a enfin celui de Monet qui unit une conception
lyrique de la vision avec une analyse quasi scientifique des sensations
colorйes et qui substitue au dessin classique la notation des ombres et des
reflets. Toutes ces tendances ont un caractиre commun: elles se fondent sur une
tentative pour substituer aux conventions de l'йcole l'analyse des donnйes
pures des sens. Et c'est par lа qu'elles mйritent finalement toutes, en commun,
le nom d'Impressionnisme.
P. Francastel, Nouveau dessin, nouvelle
word ``impressionniste'' was printed for the first time in the Charivari on the 25 April 1874 by Louis
Leroy, after Claude Monet's landscape entitled Impressions: soleil levant [Impressions]. This word was used to call Exposition des Impressionnistes an
exhibit hold in the salons of the photographer Nadar and organized by the
``Sociйtй anonyme des peintres, sculpteurs et graveurs'' [``Anonymous society
of painters, sculptors and engravers''], composed of Pissarro, Monet, Sisley,
Degas, Renoir, Cйzanne, Guillaumin and Berthe Morisot.
founders of this society were animated by the will to break with the official
art. The official theory that the color should be dropped pure on the canvas
instead of getting mixed on the palette will only be respected by a few of them
and only for a couple of years. In fact, the Impressionism is a lot more a state of the mind than a
technique; thus artists other than painters have also been qualified of impressionists. Many of these painters
ignore the law of simultaneous contrast as established by Chevreul in 1823. The
expressions ``independants'' or ``open air painters'' may be more appropriate
than ``impressionists'' to qualify those artists continuing a tradition
inherited from Eugиne Delacroix, who thought that the drawing and colors were a
whole, and English landscape painters, Constable, Bonington and especially
William Turner, whose first law was the observation of nature, as for landscape
painters working in Barbizon and in the Fontainebleau forest.
Boudin, Stanislas Lйpine and the Dutch Jongkind were among the forerunners of
the movement. In 1858, Eugиne Boudin met in Honfleur Claude Monet, aged about
15 years. He brought him to the seashore, gave him colors and learned him how
to observe the changing lights on the Seine estuary. In those years, Boudin is
still the minor painter of the Pardon de
Sainte-Anne-la-Palud, but is on the process of getting installed
on the Normandy coast to paint the beaches of Trouville and Le Havre. On the Cфte de Grвce, in the Saint-Simйon
farm, he attracts many painters including Courbet, Bazille, Monet, Sisley. The
last three will meet in Paris in the free Gleyre studio, and in 1863 they will
discover a porcelain painter, Auguste Renoir.
the same time, other artists wanted to bypass the limitations attached to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and were working quai des Orfиvres in the Swiss Academy;
the eldest, from the Danish West Indies, was Camille Pissarro; the other two
were Paul Cйzanne and Armand Guillaumin.
``Salon des Refusйs''
people were highly impressed by the works of Edouard Manet, and became outraged
when they learned that he was refused for the 1863 Salon. The indignation was
so high among the artistic population that Napoleon III allowed the opening of
a ``Salon des Refusйs'', where Manet, Pissarro, Jongkind, Cals, Chintreuil,
Fantin-Latour, etc. showed their works. Le
Dйjeuner sur l'herbe provoked a great enthusiasm among the young
painters, who saw represented in Manet's painting many of their concerns. They
started meeting around him in the cafй Guerbois, 9, avenue de Clichy, and thus
creating l'йcole des Batignolles.
1866 Salon accepted the works of some of them: Degas, Bazille, Berthe Morisot,
Sisley; Monet exposed the portrait of Camille,
Pissarro, les Bords de la Marne en hiver;
Manet, Cйzanne, Renoir were refused, and Emile Zola wrote in l'Evenement a diatribe which made him
the official upholder of those newcomers bearing an more revolutionary attitude
in the conception than in the still traditional painting. The main distinction
lies in the attraction for color and the liking of light; but Berthe Morisot
remained faithful to Manet's teaching; Degas was mixed between his admiration
of Ingres and the Italian Renaissance painters; Cйzanne attempted to ``faire du
Poussin sur nature''; Claude Monet himself, in la Terrasse au Havre and les Femmes au jardin (1866, Louvre, salles du Jeu de
Paume), is far from announcing his future audacity.
The 1870 war
1870 war splitted those beginners. Frйdйric Bazille was killed in
Beaune-la-Rolande; Renoir was mobilized; Degas volunteered; Cйzanne retired in
Provence; Pissarro, Monet and Sisley moved to London, where they met Paul
Durand-Ruel. This stay in London is a major step in the evolution of
Impressionism, both because these young artists met there their first merchant,
and because they discovered Turner's paintings, whose light analysis will mark
in Paris, most of these painters went to work in Argenteuil (Monet, Renoir),
Chatou (Renoir), Marly (Sisley), or on the banks of the river Oise (Pissarro,
Guillaumin, Cйzanne). Edouard Manet painted the Seine with Claude Monet and,
under his influence, adopted the open air work.
The opinion of the public
was unable to sell the works of the future impressionists and had to cease
buying in 1873; thus, next year, they decided to expose in Nadar's (15 April-15
May 1874), where they displayed the works that the Salon had refused. They
invited with no success Manet, but Lйpine, Boudin, Bracquemond the engraver,
Astruc the sculptor, and the painters Cals, de Nittis, Henri Rouart, etc.
joined them. Many artists became then conscious of the public and critics
incomprehension, but the solidarity didn't last long. Cйzanne didn't
participate in the group second exhibit, galerie Durand-Ruel, rue Le Peletier,
in 1876, which hold 24 Degas and works from Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet,
Auguste Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and Frйdйric Bazille. They met some upholders,
such as Duranty, Armand Silvestre, Philippe Burty, Emile Blйmond, Georges
Riviиre, soon with Thйodore Duret. The disappearance of Cйzanne, Renoir,
Sisley, Berthe Morisot in the 1879 exhibit proved that the group was splitting
apart. Renoir preferred to send to the official Salon Mme Charpentier et ses enfants and the Portrait of Jeanne Samary; yet only few
people admired his artworks and of those of his friends, and the artists'life
was uneasy, if not miserable. Degas tried, with Pissarro, to maintain the unity
of the group, but his attempt failed since Monet, Sisley and Renoir were
missing for the fifth exhibit, opened in April 1880; however, artworks from
Gauguin appeared there for the first time. In 1881, the some of the
Impressionists went back to Nadar's: Pissarro, Degas, Guillaumin, Berthe
Morisot. The ``seventh exhibition of independant artists'' was the become the
``Salon des indйpendants'' two years later.
Monet and Sisley went always deeper into the analysis of light changings and
their effects on appearances. Degas, Renoir and Cйzanne headed towards opposite
directions, whereas Pissarro was interested by the researches of Paul Gauguin,
Georges Seurat, Paul Signac. If, at this stage, Impressionists were becoming
appreciated, their situation was still harsh; the Salon was still refusing
their paintings, and in 1894, 25 out of 65 artworks donated by Caillebotte to
the Luxembourg museum were rejected.
when Camille Pissarro, the Impressionist patriarch, died in 1903, everybody
agreed that this movement was the main XIXth century artistic revolution, and
that all its members were among the finest painters. The influence of the
Impressionists was great out of France, especially in Germany, with Liebermann,
Corinth, and in Belgium.
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