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Photography in the nineteenth century both challenged painters to be true to nature and encouraged them to exploit aspects of the painting medium, like color, that photography lacked. This divergence away from photographic realism appears in the work of a group of artists who from 1874 to 1886 exhibited together, independently of the Salon. The leaders of the independent movement were Claude Monet, August Renoir, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, and Mary Cassatt. They became known as Impressionists because a newspaper critic thought they were painting mere sketches or impressions. The Impressionists, however, considered their works finished. --http://www.artchive.com/artchive/impressionism.html [Dec 2004]

Related: 1860s - 1870s - Claude Monet - modern art - French art - post-impressionism

Influenced by: photography - visual culture of illustrated newspapers

Garden in Shoreham (1820s or early 1830s) - Samuel Palmer
This 1820s painting by Samuel Palmer is Impressionism avant la lettre.

Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway painted (1844) - William Turner
This 1844 painting by William Turner is Impressionism avant la lettre.

Impression, soleil levant (1872/1873) - Claude Monet


Impressionism was a 19th century art movement, that began as a loose association of Paris-based artists who began publicly exhibiting their art in the 1860s. The name of the movement is derived from Claude Monet's Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) (1872/1873). Critic Louis Leroy inadvertently coined the term in a satiric review published in French magazine Le Charivari.

The influence of Impressionist thought spread beyond the art world, leading to Impressionist music and Impressionist literature.

Characteristic of impressionist painting are visible brushstrokes, light colors, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, and unusual visual angles.

Impressionism also describes art done in this style, but outside of the late 19th century time period.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism [Jul 2005]

A reaction against classic subjects and of the degenerate Romanticists

[t]he reaction of Impressionism, not only against classic subjects, but against the black painting of the degenerate Romanticists. And these two reactions are counterbalanced by a return to the French ideal, to the realistic and characteristic tradition which commences with Jean Foucquet and Clouet, and is continued by Chardin, Claude Lorrain, Poussin, Watteau, La Tour, Fragonard, and the admirable engravers of the eighteenth century down to the final triumph of the allegorical taste of the Roman revolution. Here can be found a whole chain of truly national artists who have either been misjudged, like Chardin, or considered as "small masters" and excluded from the first rank for the benefit of the pompous Allegorists descended from the Italian school. --The French Impressionists (1860-1900), by Camille Mauclair http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14056/14056-h/14056-h.htm [May 2006]

Content and composition, influence of photography

At the time when Impressionism emerged in France in the late 19th century, there was a renewed interest among artists (although not within the official art establishment) in everyday subject matter, however, this time there was a new twist. Photography was beginning to come into its own, and its output was becoming more and more candid as the technology improved in portability. Impressionists were inspired to seek more than ever to capture the moment, not only in the fleeting lights of a landscape, but in the day-to-day lives of people.

Photography and the currently popular Japanese art prints combined to also introduce two additional features into the painting of the Impressionists: odd "snapshot" angles, and non-conventional compositions (arrangements of the subject matter). Edgar Degas' The Dance Class is an excellent example of both of these influences. A dancer on the left is caught in the picture adjusting her costume, and the lower right quadrant of the picture contains nothing but empty floor space. This is a long way from the classical compositions of the past. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism [Dec 2004]

Hokusai inspired impressionism

Katsushika Hokusai (1760 - 1849), known as simply Hokusai is a famous Japanese painter and Ukiyo-e maker.

His works were important sources of inspiration for many European impressionists like Claude Monet. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokusai [Aug 2004]

Louis Leroy

The word ``impressionniste'' was printed for the first time in the Charivari on the 25 April 1874 by Louis Leroy, --http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/glo/impressionism/ [Apr 2005]


The name "Impressionist" itself comes from a mockery. When the establishment refused to exhibit their works, the Impressionists gathered in the art studio of photographer Nadar and organised their own exhibition, from April 15th to May 15th, 1874. When being reviewed by the press, this exhibit was widely rejected by all journalists and one of them, named Louis Leroy (from newspaper Charivari), mocked Monet's painting Impression, soleil levant, ironically calling it "Impressionist." The painters, maybe as a way to give the mockery back to the journalists, decided to adopt the word as the name of their movement, thus officially giving birth to Impressionism. --http://www.boheme-magazine.net/sep03/impress.html [Apr 2005]

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Lise the bohemian (1868) - Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (February 25, 1841–December 3, 1919) was a French artist who painted in the impressionist style. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Auguste_Renoir [Mar 2006]

See also: Impressionism - bohemianism - 1868 - French art

Impressionism and journalistic illustration

Journalistic Illustration provided a ready source of visual stimuli for the experimental artists of the 1860s and 1870s that affected as well as coincided with their iconographic and, to a lesser degree, their formal interests.

Ever since the appearance of Meyer Schapiro's essay on "Courbet and Popular Imagery" in 1941, we have been expanding our awareness of the popular arts as a formal and iconographic influence upon French painting of the second half of the 19th century.' During the past four decades, the interconnected contributions of cheaply printed colored woodcuts, fashion plates, photography, Japanese prints, lithography, and journalistic illustrations of contemporaneous events, customs, and social types have been increasingly recognized.'

In the work of Anne Hanson and Beatrice Farwell, in particular, a vast repertory of images, mainly lithographic, has been brought for- ward as providing a pictorial storehouse from which artists re- peatedly drew. Whereas Hanson has concentrated her attention upon Manet,' Farwell has ranged more broadly, exploring the extensive precedents in the lithography of the July Monarchy and early Second Empire for the iconography of Courbet, Manet, Degas, and the Impressionist generation.' In the catalogue of her illuminating exhibition The Cult of Images, Farwell has assessed the results of this research correctly and forcefully.

While taking account of the artists' commitment to paint what they saw, in accordance with Realist theory, she affirms the parallel role of popular imagery: In view of the wide range of Realist subjects already treated a generation earlier in popular lithographs, this simple view of artists setting out to paint the contemporary scene from the life is no longer convincing. The pattern was already there. It is naive to suppose that Degas was unaware of Gavarni's and Beaumont's "rats" behind the scenes at the Opera, since they appeared every day in Le Charivari. By the same token, it must be assumed that any artist whose youth was spent in the 1830s, '40s or '50s grew up in the constant presence of a plethora of images that were bound to appeal to visual sensibility and the urge to draw. It was the first generation of artists so affected. --Joel Isaacson, http://www.msu.edu/course/ha/446/joelisaacson.pdf [Dec 2004]

If the Impressionists Had Been Dentists () - Woody Allen

"Dear Theo, Will life never treat me decently? I am wracked by despair! My head is pounding! Mrs. Sol Schwimmer is suing me because I made her bridge as I felt it and not to fit her ridiculous mouth! That's right! I can't work to order like a common tradesman! I decided her bridge should be enormous and billowing, with wild, explosive teeth flaring up in every direction like fire! Now she is upset because it won't fit in her mouth! She is so bourgeois and stupid, I want to smash her! I tried forcing the false plate in but it sticks out like a star burst chandelier. Still, I find it beautiful. She claims she can't chew! What do I care whether she can chew or not! Theo, I can't go on like this much longer! (...) - Vincent" -- From Woody Allen's “If the Impressionists Had Been Dentists: A fantasy exploring the transposition of temperament."

Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist (1995) - Anne Distel

The Impressionist and patron of other artists Gustave Caillebotte (1848 – 1894) painted the Boulevard Haussmann under many aspects of seasonal and daily change.

Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist (1995) - Anne Distel
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Caillebotte's vivid representations of Parisian life bridged the gap between Realism and Impressionism during the 1870s and early 1880s. His Paris Street: Rainy Day and Floorscrapers--each the subject of a fascinating, extensively illustrated analysis in this book--have become icons of the Impressionists' devotion to scenes of modern urban life.

Prepared by an international team of scholars to accompany the major 1994-95 retrospective organized by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Musée d'Orsay, Paris, and The Art Institute of Chicago, Gustave Caillebotte: Urban Impressionist reproduces 89 of his paintings and 28 of his drawings and studies, many of them from little-known private collections. Thoughtful essays examine both his work and his crucial role as an early patron and promoter of Impressionism. A chronology, list of exhibitions, and selected bibliography provide additional invaluable information.

See also: French art - realism - impressionism - Arcades Project

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