Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that began as a loose association of Paris-based artists exhibiting their art publicly in the 1860s - Impressionism introduction. This article is about the art movement. It is a style of art in which the image of an object is captured by the artist as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it. Lots of colors are used in painting the pictures and most of the pictures are outdoor scenes. These pictures are very bright and vibrant. Capture images without detail is liked by the artists but with bold colors. Edouard Manet, Camille Pissaro, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot and Pierre Auguste Renoir are the some of the greatest impressionist artists. The emergence of Impressionism in the visual arts was soon followed by analogous movements in other media which became known as Impressionist music and Impressionist literature. Impressionism also describes art created in this style, but outside of the late 19th century time period. Impressionism is different because early Impressionists broke the rules of academic painting. They began to paint with different and bold colors, with free brush. They came out of the studio and start painting natural scenes. The Impressionists found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight. These paintings show the overall effects rather than details. The rise of Impressionism in France happened at a time when a number of other painters, including the Italian artists known as the Macchiaioli, and Winslow Homer in the United States, were also exploring plein-air painting. In April 1874 a group of artists, calling themselves “Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs” roughly “Artists, Painters, Sculptors, Engravers, Inc.”
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In Paris a group of artists, rejected by the juries of the Salon on April 15, 1874, offer their work for public view. Some critics appreciate the “new painting”. The work of the “Impressionists” will ultimately lead to what is now recognized as Modern Art. This partial recreation of their first exhibition is in tribute to the spirit of these iconoclastic pioneers. They are 35 in number. They presented 163 works ranging from a few fairly academic pieces to three little outrages by Paul Cézanne that guards feared might be ripped apart by the crowd. Attendance at the show was abysmal. There were 175 on the opening day and that decreased to about 54 on the last day of the month-long exhibition. The show was unique in that it was open during the evenings, but attendance was seldom more than 10 to 20 during these hours, and sometimes as low as 2. Altogether, some 3,500 people paid one Franc each to see the show. Meanwhile, across town at the Salon, some 400,000 paid ten Francs to see over 4,000 works.
Post-Impressionism developed from Impressionism. From the 1880s several artists began to develop different precepts for the use of colour, pattern, form, and line, derived from the Impressionist example: Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. These artists were slightly younger than the Impressionists, and their work is known as post-Impressionism. Some of the original Impressionist artists also ventured into this new territory; Camille Pissarro briefly painted in a pointillist manner, and even Monet abandoned strict plein air painting. Paul Cézanne, who participated in the first and third Impressionist exhibitions, developed a highly individual vision emphasizing pictorial structure, and he is more often called a post-Impressionist. Although these cases illustrate the difficulty of assigning labels, the work of the original Impressionist painters may, by definition, be categorized as Impressionism.
Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Gauguin, Cézanne Van Gogh and Delacroix
Radicalism of Impressionism: Trees are Not Violet; The Sky is Not Butter!
In 1874, fifty-five artists held the first independent group show of Impressionist art. Most of them including Cézanne, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Manet, and his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot (“a bunch of lunatics and a woman, muttered one observer) had been rejected by the Salon, the annual French state-sponsored exhibition that offered the only real opportunity for artists to display and sell their work. Never mind, they told each other. At the Salon, paintings were stacked three or four high and crowded too closely together on the walls. At their independent exhibition, mounted in what was formerly a photographer’s studio, the artists could hang their works at eye level with space between them. Although the artists didn’t call themselves Impressionists at first, this occasion would be the first of eight such “Impressionist” exhibits over the next twelve years.
An outraged critic, Louis Leroy, coined the label Impressionist.” He looked at Monet’s Impression Sunrise, the artist’s sensory response to a harbor at dawn, painted with sketchy brushstrokes. “Impression!” the journalist snorted. “Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished!” Within a year, the name Impressionism was an accepted term in the art world. If the name was accepted, the art itself was not. “Try to make Monsieur Pissarro understand that trees are not violet; that the sky is not the color of fresh butter and that no sensible human being could countenance such aberrations…try to explain to Monsieur Renoir that a woman’s torso is not a mass of decomposing flesh with those purplish-green stains,” wrote art critic Albert Wolff after the second Impressionist exhibition. Although some people appreciated the new paintings, many did not. The critics and the public agreed the Impressionists couldn’t draw and their colors were considered vulgar. Their compositions were strange. Their short, slapdash brushstrokes made their paintings practically illegible. Why didn’t these artists take the time to finish their canvases, viewers wondered? Indeed, Impressionism broke every rule of the French Academy of Fine Arts, the conservative school that had dominated art training and taste since 1648. Impressionist scenes of modern urban and country life were a far cry from the Academic efforts to teach moral lessons through historic, mythological, and Biblical themes. This tradition, drawn from ancient Greek and Roman art, featured idealized images. Symmetrical compositions, hard outlines, and meticulously smooth paint surfaces characterized academic paintings. Despite the Academy’s power, seeds of artistic and political unrest had been sown long before 1874. The early- and mid-19th century was a time of political instability in France. Between 1830 and 1850, the population of Paris doubled. During the Revolution of 1848, Parisian workers with socialist goals overthrew the monarchy, only to see conservatives seize the reins of government later that year. Fear of further uprisings created widespread distrust among the aristocracy, the poor, and the newly prosperous bourgeoisie or middle class.
At the same time, the far-reaching Industrial Revolution fostered a new faith in the individual and his unlimited potential. Romantic painters such as Eugène Delacroix began to celebrate individuality in terms of painting technique with warm colors and vigorous brush- strokes. Delacroix’s journals would later provide ideas about color theory and painting techniques to the Impressionists. Later in the 19th century, Barbizon School painters Corot, Millet, and Rousseau abandoned classical studio themes to go outside and paint the landscape around them. Realist Gustave Courbet, a mentor to several Impressionists, painted the rural poor just as he saw them. His rough-textured technique displeased the Academy. The Impressionists, or “Independents,” as they preferred to be called, brought together a wide variety of these influences, beliefs, and styles when they first exhibited and met in Paris cafés to discuss art. Their rejection of the Academy and the Academy’s rejection of them united the group.
The Painting of Modern Life and Real Life Subjects The sturdiest thread linking the Impressionists was an interest in the world around them. For subject matter, they looked to contemporary people at work and play. Inventions such as the steam engine, power loom, streetlights, camera, ready-made fashions, cast iron, and steel had changed the lives of ordinary people. Underlying the Industrial Revolution was a belief that technological progress was key to all human progress. In this climate of discovery, people felt they could do anything.
The Industrial Revolution brought economic prosperity to France, and Emperor Napoleon III set out to make Paris the showpiece of Europe. He hired civic planner Baron Hausmann, Prefect of the Seine, to replace the dirty, old medieval city with wide boulevards, parks, and monuments. The new steel-ribbed railroad stations and bridges were feats of modern engineering. Cafés, restaurants, and theaters lured the bourgeoisie, the powerful new merchant class who had made their homes in and around Paris. Busy City and Quiet Countryside Settings Back to Top Most Impressionists were born in the bourgeoisie class, and this was the world they painted. “Make us see and understand, with brush or with pencil, how great and poetic we are in our cravats and our leather boots,” the poet Charles Baudelaire challenged his friend Édouard Manet. Baudelaire’s essay, The Painter of Modern Life, inspired other Impressionists to portray real life themes, too. Degas prowled behind the scenes of the opera and ballet for his subjects. Monet immortalized Paris railroad stations. Nearly all the Impressionist artists painted people hurrying through busy streets and enjoying their leisure time on the boulevard, at the racetrack, in café-concerts, shops, restaurants, and parks. However, it was not just city bustle that intrigued the Impressionists. Country themes appealed to them, too. Railroads gave people a new mobility. They could hop on a train and be in the countryside in an hour. Commuters escaped the crowded city to the suburbs that sprouted around Paris. The Seine River, parks, and gardens provided recreation for weekend picnickers, swimmers, and boat parties, which the Impressionists duly recorded. One key to Impressionism’s popularity, it has been written, is that the artist often put the viewer in the position of someone on holiday enjoying a beautiful scene. “Monet never painted weekdays,” one critic noted wryly. The home offered other real-life subjects. It was unacceptable for women painters like Berthe Morisot or Mary Cassatt to set up an easel in most public places. They relied on domestic scenes of women from their own social class cuddling babies, playing with their children, dressing in the boudoir, or tending their gardens. The garden was central to late 19th-century life. Monet, Manet, and Renoir often painted their gardens. Monet called his flowerbeds “my most beautiful work of art.”En Plein Air and “The Painter of the Passing Moment” Back to Top Painting the sidewalk café, the racetrack, or the boating party attracted the Impressionists to work outdoors, or en plein air. Most Impressionists worked directly and spontaneously from nature. It was Barbizon painter Camille Corot who first advised artists to “submit to the first impression” of what they saw a real landscape without the contrived classical ruins or Biblical parables of French Academic painting. Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, and others preferred to record their initial sensory reactions rather than idealize a subject. A painter friend of Monet recalled the master giving him this advice: “He (Monet) said he wished he had been born blind and then had suddenly gained his sight so that he could have begun to paint in this way without knowing what the objects were that he saw before him. He held that the first real look at the motif was likely to be the truest and most unprejudiced one.” The Impressionists thought that painting their experiences was more truthful, and thus more ethical, than copying the art of the past. Impressionist landscapes often contained people, or showed the effects of man’s presence on a bridge or path, for example. The Impressionists wanted to catch people in candid rather than staged or posed moments. It is as if the artist and we, the viewers, are watching a private, contemplative moment. We see men, women, and children floating in a rowboat, strolling under the trees, or just watching the river flow.Impressionists often depicted people mid-task. Degas caught opera audience members watching each other instead of the stage and ballet dancers stretching or adjusting their costumes before a performance. Renoir’s guitar player strums her instrument by herself. Pissarro’s Parisian pedestrians hurriedly cross the city streets.
A wish to capture nature’s fleeting moment led many Impressionists to paint the same scene at different times and in different weather. They had to work fast to capture the moment, or to finish an outdoor painting before the light changed. Artists had often made quick sketches in pencil or diluted oil paint on location, but now the sketch became the finished work. Impressionist painters adopted a distinctive style of rapid, broken brushstrokes: lines for people on a busy street, or specks to re-create flowers in a meadow.These artists often applied paint so thickly that it created a rough texture on the canvas. Impressionists mixed colors right on the canvas or stroked on the hues next to each other and let the viewer’s eye do the blending. This process was called optical color mixing. Not only did this sketchy technique suggest motion, but it also captured the shimmering effects of light that engaged these artists. The rough, brilliant paintings of Impressionism were a drastic departure from the slick, highly finished canvases of Academic painters. Although the Impressionists wanted their work to look almost accidental, it’s no surprise that early critics called it “lazy” and unfinished.
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