Impressionism

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In the middle of the 19th century, the Académie des Beaux-Arts was the preserver of traditional French painting standards of content and style. Historical subjects, religious themes, and portraits were valued. The Académie preferred carefully finished images that looked realistic. Paintings in layers with soft untraceable brushstrokes. The color was restrained and often toned down further by the application of a golden varnish.

The Académie had an annual, juried art show, the Salon de Paris, and artists whose work was displayed in the show won prizes, garnered commissions, and enhanced their prestige. The standards of the juries represented the values of the Académie,

In the early 1860s, four young painters—Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille. They discovered that they shared an interest in painting landscapes and contemporary life rather than historical or mythological scenes. Following a practice that had become increasingly popular by mid-century, they often ventured into the countryside together to paint in the open air, but not for the purpose of making sketches to be developed into carefully finished works in the studio, as was the usual custom. By painting in sunlight directly from nature, and making bold use of the vivid synthetic pigments that had become available since the beginning of the century,


During the 1860s, the Salon jury routinely rejected about half of the works submitted by Monet and his friends in Favor of works by artists faithful to the approved style.


Mary Cassatt, Lydia Leaning on Her Arms (in a theatre box), 1879

A number of identifiable techniques and working habits contributed to the innovative oil painting style of Monet and his friends (Impressionists),

  • Short, thick strokes of paint quickly capture the essence of the subject, rather than its details. The paint is often applied impasto.

  • Colors are applied side by side with as little mixing as possible, a technique that exploits the principle of simultaneous contrast to make the color appear more vivid to the viewer.

  • Greys and dark tones are produced by mixing complementary colors. Pure impressionism avoids the use of black paint.

  • Wet paint is placed into wet paint without waiting for successive applications to dry, producing softer edges and intermingling of color.

  • Impressionist paintings do not exploit the transparency of thin paint films (glazes), which earlier artists manipulated carefully to produce effects. The impressionist painting surface is typically opaque.

  • The paint is applied to the white or light-colored ground. Previously, painters often used dark grey or strongly colored grounds.

  • The play of natural light is emphasized. Close attention is paid to the reflection of colors from object to object. Painters often worked in the evening to produce the shadowy effects of evening or twilight.

  • In paintings made outdoors, shadows are boldly painted with the blue of the sky as it is reflected onto surfaces, giving a sense of freshness previously not represented in painting.


Portrait of Claude Monet, Carolus-Duran, c. 1867

The Impressionists' progress toward a brighter style of painting was gradual. During the 1860s, Monet and Renoir sometimes painted on canvases prepared with the traditional red-brown or grey ground. By the 1870s, Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro usually chose to paint on grounds of a lighter grey or beige color, which functioned as a middle tone in the finished painting. By the 1880s, some of the Impressionists had come to prefer white or slightly off-white grounds, and no longer allowed the ground color a significant role in the finished painting.


conclusion: The Impressionists sought to express their perceptions of nature, rather than create exact representations. This allowed artists to depict subjectively what they saw with their "tacit imperatives of taste and conscience".


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