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Impressionism, 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, andFrédéric Bazille, who worked together, influenced each other, and exhibited together independently.Edgar Degas andPaul Cézanne also painted in an Impressionist style for a time in the early 1870s. The established painterÉdouard Manet, whose work in the 1860s greatly influenced Monet and others of the group, himself adopted the Impressionist approach about 1873.

The Founders

The 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, theImpressionism 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

Eugène Delacroix, who thought that the drawing and colors were a whole, and English landscape painters,Constable, Bonington and especiallyWilliam Turner, whose first law was the observation of nature, as for landscape painters working in Barbizon and in the Fontainebleau forest.

Eugène Boudin, Stanislas Lépine and the DutchJongkind were among the forerunners of the movement. In 1858, Eugène 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 thePardon 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 theCôte de Grâce, in the Saint-Siméon farm, he attracts many painters includingCourbet, 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.

At the same time, other artists wanted to bypass the limitations attached to theEcole des Beaux-Arts and were workingquai des Orfèvres in the Swiss Academy; the eldest, from the Danish West Indies, was Camille Pissarro; the other two were Paul Cézanne and Armand Guillaumin.

The 1870 war

The 1870 war splitted those beginners. Frédéric Bazille was killed in Beaune-la-Rolande; Renoir was mobilized; Degas volunteered; Cézanne 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 them.

Back 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, Cézanne). Edouard Manet painted the Seine with Claude Monet and, under his influence, adopted the open air work.

The opinion of the public

Durand-Ruel 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 Lépine, 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. Cézanne 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 Frédéric Bazille. They met some upholders, such as Duranty, Armand Silvestre, Philippe Burty, Emile Blémond, Georges Rivière, soon with Théodore Duret. The disappearance of Cézanne, Renoir, Sisley, Berthe Morisot in the 1879 exhibit proved that the group was splitting apart. Renoir preferred to send to the official SalonMme Charpentier et ses enfants and thePortrait 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 fromGauguin 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 indépendants"" two years later.

Only Monet and Sisley went always deeper into the analysis of light changings and their effects on appearances. Degas, Renoir and Cézanne 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.

Yet, 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.


Frédéric  Bazille

Portrait of Pierre-Auguste Renoir
1867 (40 Kb); Oil on canvas, 122 x 107 cm (37 x 32 1/3 in); Musee d"Orsay, Paris

Bazille"s Studio; 9 rue de la Condamine
1870 (90 Kb); Oil on canvas, 98 x 128.5 cm (38 1/2 x 50 1/2 in); Musee d"Orsay, Paris

Eugène  Boudin

Rivage de Portrieux, Cotes-du-Nord (The Coast of Portrieux, Cotes-du-Nord)
1874; Oil on canvas, 85 x 148 cm; Private collection, England

Alfred  Sisley

Sisley, Alfred (b. Oct. 30, 1839, Paris, Fr.--d. Jan. 29, 1899, Moret-sur-Loing), painter who was one of the creators of French


Sisley was born in Paris of English parents. After his schooldays, his father, a merchant trading with the southern states of America, sent him to London for a business career, but finding this unpalatable, Sisley returned to Paris in 1862 with the aim of becoming an artist. His family gave him every support, sending him to Gleyre"s studio, where he met

Renoir,Monet and Bazille. He spent some time painting in Fontainebleau, at Chailly with Monet, Bazille and Renoir, and later at Marlotte with Renoir. His style at this time was deeply influenced by Courbet and Daubigny, and when he first exhibited at the Salon in 1867 it was as the pupuil of Corot.

By this time, however, he had started to frequent the Café Guerbois, and was becoming more deeply influenced by the notions which were creating Impressionism. During the Franco-Prussian war and the period of the Commune, he spent some time in London and was introduced to Durand-Ruel by

Pissarro, becoming part of that dealer"s stable. In the mean time, his father had lost all his money as a result of the war, and Sisley, with a family to support, was reduced to a state of penury, in which he was to stay until virtually the end of his life.

Camille Pissarro

b. July 10, 1830, St. Thomas, Danish West Indies--d. Nov. 13, 1903, Paris)

French Impressionist painter, who endured prolonged financial hardship in keeping faith with the aims of Impressionism. Despite acute eye trouble, his later years were his most prolific. The Parisian and provincial scenes of this period includePlace du Théâtre Français (1898) andBridge at Bruges (1903)

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