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Impressionism and Post Impressionism

In 19th-century France the confirmation of an artist's success was acceptance at the annual Salon, a state-sponsored exhibition of paintings. The accepted paintings tended to be conservative if not downright dull. Salon paintings of the period typically contained a knight in armor, a group of cardinals, some tropical vegetation, or a medieval feast with every dish shown in meticulous detail.

In 1863 the Salon rejected four thousand paintings, which caused such an uproar among the rejected painters and their supporters that they formed their own exhibition—“Salon des Refuse’s.”  Among the painters in the “refused” show was Edouard Manet. Manet broke all the rules. He took a fresh look at how light strikes a subject, concentrating on brilliant highlights and deep shadow, all but eliminating the middle transitional tones.

 During the years following Manet’s sensation at the Salon des Refuse’s, young French artists increasingly sought alternatives to the Salon. One group looked to Manet as their philosophical leader. The group formed in 1874 and staged private showings until 1886. Because of the diversity of their works, the group had a hard time identifying their style. Then a critic, after seeing a paining by Claude Monet (a member of the group) entitled Impression: Sunrise, dubbed the artists “impressionists.” The group adopted the name; their work was known thereafter as Impressionism.

Rejecting the standards of the past, the impressionists preferred to paint outdoors, choosing landscapes and street scenes, as well as figures from everyday life. Their primary object was to achieve a spontaneous, undetailed rendering of the world through careful representation of the effect of natural light on objects. The foremost impressionists included Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat, and Vincent van Gogh.



Edgar Degas lived in New Orleans, the birth place of his mother,  for five months during 1872 and 1873.
Degas wrote to his family and friends in France of the wonders of America and the beauty of New Orleans, but the harsh Louisiana sun prevented his painting out of doors. He confined his subjects primarily to affectionate family portraits. It was in this house that he created one of the most significant paintings of modern times, Portraits in an Office: The New Orleans Cotton Exchange (1873, Musee des BeauxArts, Pau). This detailed scene of his uncle's place of business was the first painting by a member of the Impressionists ever to be purchased by a museum, hence marking the beginning of official recognition of Impressionism as a significant art movement.












Claude Oscar Monet was a French impressionist painter who brought the study of the transient effects of natural light to its most refined expression. Working outside, Monet painted simple landscapes and scenes of contemporary middle-class society, and he began to have some success at official exhibitions. As his style developed, however, Monet violated one traditional artistic convention after another in the interest of direct artistic expression. His experiments in rendering outdoor sunlight with a direct, sketch like application of bright color became more and more daring, and he seemed to cut himself off from the possibility of a successful career as a conventional painter supported by the art establishment.  In 1874 Monet and his colleagues decided to appeal directly to the public by organizing their own exhibition. They called themselves independents, but the press soon derisively labeled them impressionists because their work seemed sketchy and unfinished (like a first impression) and because one of Monet's paintings had borne the title Impression: Sunrise (1872, Musée Marmottan, Paris).



The only merit I have is to have painted directly from nature with the aim of conveying my impression in front of the most fugitive effects.
                                                 Claude Monet






Pierre Auguste Renoir

French impressionist painter, noted for his radiant, intimate paintings, particularly of the female nude. Recognized by critics as one of the greatest and most independent painters of his period, Renoir is noted for the harmony of his lines, the brilliance of his color, and the intimate charm of his wide variety of subjects. Unlike other impressionists he was as much interested in painting the single human figure or family group portraits as he was in landscapes; unlike them, too, he did not subordinate composition and plasticity of form to attempts at rendering the effect of light. "Renoir, Pierre Auguste," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation.


The simplest subjects are the immortal ones.
                          Pierre August Renoir





French painter, who with fellow artist Paul Signac originated the influential theory and practice of neoimpressionism. Seurat was born in Paris and trained at the École des Beaux-Arts. He rejected the soft, irregular brushstrokes of impressionism in favor of pointillism, a technique he developed whereby solid forms are constructed by applying small, close-packed dots of unmixed color to a white background. Many artists imitated Seurat's method, but, except in the work of Signac, his technique remained unequaled in its perfect blending of colors. He departed from impressionist style, however, in his precise application of paint and in the suggestion of depth and volume in his scenes. His masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (1884-1886, Art Institute of Chicago), achieves an atmosphere of monumental dignity through the balanced arrangement of its elements and the contours of its figures.  "Seurat, Georges," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte  (1884-1886)
I painted in this manner only to break new ground, to find a style of my own.
                                                                                                                   Georges Seurat




Dutch postimpressionist painter, whose work represents the archetype of expressionism, the idea of emotional spontaneity in painting. an Gogh was born March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, son of a Dutch Protestant pastor. Early in life he displayed a moody, restless temperament that was to thwart his every pursuit. By the age of 27 he had been in turn a salesman in an art gallery, a French tutor, a theological student, and an evangelist among the miners at Wasmes in Belgium. In 1886 van Gogh went to Paris to live with his brother Théo van Gogh, an art dealer, and became familiar with the new art movements developing at the time. Influenced by the work of the impressionists and by the work of such Japanese printmakers as Hiroshige and Hokusai, van Gogh began to experiment with current techniques. Subsequently, he adopted the brilliant hues found in the paintings of the French artists Camille Pissarro and Georges Seurat. In 1888 van Gogh left Paris for southern France, where, under the burning sun of Provence, he painted scenes of the fields, cypress trees, peasants, and rustic life characteristic of the region. During this period, living at Arles, he began to use the swirling brush strokes and intense yellows, greens, and blues associated with such typical works as Bedroom at Arles (1888, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh), and Starry Night (1889, Museum of Modern Art, New York City). For van Gogh all visible phenomena, whether he painted or drew them, seemed to be endowed with a physical and spiritual vitality. "Gogh, Vincent Willem van," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 98 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation.






I bring every ounce of blood with me when I paint
   for my mind vibrates with the wind and my hands strike the canvases
   with lightning
   my ears hear my brush pressing on the colors while my feelings become
   the painting
   I watch my thoughts float onto the canvas while my hands move to the
   rhythms where nothing else has purpose
   it's one continuous movement over another flowing forth with a tip of
   madness that's tucked inside burnt-sea-mist of ocean browns
   deep-green-gold of emerald dawns that nestle with the twilight-almonds
 for ending the day

                                                                                            Vincent van Gogh

--Content prepared by David Deroche.

Copyright (c) 1999; all rights reserved.

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