As one of the Tiny Folio Great Museum series, this book is designed as a tour of the National Gallery's collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture. Visitors to the National Gallery in Washington usually make straight for the rooms holding the museum's works by the greatest Impressionist artists, including Degas, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and many others. This miniature compendium includes all the favourites, along with many less-familiar works photographed especially for this volume.
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Earl A. Powell III is Director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Florence E. Coman is Assistant Curator of French Painting at the museum.
One single event, the sensational debut of Impressionism in Paris in April 1874, became the catalyst for a revolution that transformed the arts during the second half of the nineteenth century. A number of young artists presented the exhibition, the first public group show to be organized independently of the government-sanctioned Salon. Their audacious venture overturned contemporary artistic institutions and traditions, freeing artists to explore new forms of expression.
The Impressionist movement and the artists who created it are now almost universally beloved. Their paintings depict a world that looks more innocent and far more appealing than ours, with healthy and handsome men, women, and children populating bustling city streets and shops, comfortable suburban homes and parks, and tranquil fields in the countryside. Yet the familiarly and accessibility of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works of art can obscure the complex artistic concerns addressed by these artists. Toward the end of his life Camille Pissarro gave some advice to a young follower. Pragmatic rather than theoretical, his words provide a rough working definition of Impressionism: Paint the essential character of things, try to convey it by any means whatsoever, without bothering about technique. When painting, make a choice of subject, see what is lying at the right and at the left, then work on everything simultaneously. Don’t work bit by bit, but paint everything at once by placing tones everywhere, with brush strokes of the right color and value, while noticing what is alongside. Use small brush strokes and try to put down your perceptions immediately. The eye should not be fixed on one point, but should take in everything while observing the reflections which the colors produce on their surroundings. Work at the same time upon sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis and unceasingly rework until you have got it. Cover the canvas at the first go, then work at it until you can see nothing more to add. Observe the aerial perspective well, from the foreground to the horizon, the reflections of sky, of foliage. Don’t be afraid of putting on color, refine the work little by little. Don’t proceed according to rules and principles, but paint what you observe and feel. Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression. Don’t be timid in front of nature: one must be bold, at the risk of being deceived and making mistakes. One must have only one master—nature; she is the one always to be consulted.
Pissarro and the other Impressionists did not intend to be revolutionary, at least at first. Rather, they wanted to revitalize the moribund practices and reactionary standards of the Academy of Fine Arts and its official exhibition, known as the Salon. Instead of painting heroic and moralizing stories from ancient history, the Bible, and mythology, they chose subjects devoid of overtly didactic content. Their principal subjects were landscape—usually views of the suburban and rural countryside where the artists lived—and the ordinary activities of daily life. Working directly from nature, they rejected the smoothly idealized presentation characteristic of academic art and instead sought natural effects by studying the appearance of people and object in natural light.
Such innovations in subject matter and style characterize but do not fully define Impressionism, for in its broadest sense the Impressionist movement originated with the avant-garde artists’ struggle for recognition. They thought that they would gain acceptance only if their works were exhibited fairly. The Salons, selected by artists from the Academy, were dominated by traditional attitudes; juries might grudgingly accept a few works by the young artists but would hang them out of sight. Over two thousand paintings were crowded together in tiers three or four paintings high at Salons, so that works placed above the lowest level were difficult or nearly impossible to see.
Favorable viewing conditions—good lighting and ample space between paintings—were considered essential by the Impressionists. In addition, they wanted to exhibit more than the two works allowed by Salon rules, and they believed that no jury should be able to control which works an artist could display. To guarantee the viewing conditions they needed, the Impressionists decided that they had to organize their own exhibitions.
Selecting a name that would describe the diverse group of exhibitors—which included Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, Berthe Morisot, and Alfred Sisley—proved impossible. After some contention they finally chose to emphasize their legitimacy with a neutral name and carefully designated themselves at the “Corporation of Artists: Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc.” They arranged their work in a few rented rooms on a fashionable Parisian boulevard and opened their doors a month before the 1874 Salon. The show attracted attention and visitors were numerous, but the critical reception was mixed. Some were receptive to their innovations and praised the group for breaking with the Salon system, but most reviews by established writers were harsh and derisive.
The most notorious review was a satiric piece by the conservative journalist Louis Leroy. He ignored the group’s neutral name and—noting their unmixed pigments and broken brushwork (characteristics of unfinished sketched known as “studies” or “impressions”) as well as one work exhibited by Monet with the title Impression, Sunrise (Musee Marmottan, Paris)—he sarcastically dubbed them Impressionists. The review, an invented dialogue between Leroy and an apparently fictional academic landscape painter named Joseph Vincent, cleverly articulated a variety of serious objections to the artists and their enterprise. Leroy began his commentary by noting, “The rash man had come there without suspecting anything; he thought that he would see the kind of painting one see everywhere, good and bad, rather bad than good, but not hostile to good artistic manners, devotion to form, and respect for the masters.” These comments made clear that Leroy considered the Impressionists’ paintings inferior, and that he objected even more vigorously to their deviation from what he considered artistic decency. Other journalists condemned the exhibition as a revolutionary, even anarchistic assault of France’s cultural institutions.
In Leroy’s review the academic painter, studying a landscape, lamented, “Oh, Corot, Corot, what crimes are committed in your name!” Jean-Baptiste-Camille-Corot, the most prolific and influential landscape painter of the nineteenth century, had declined an invitation to join the Impressionist exhibition, but his influence was clearly felt in many of the works shown there by artists such as Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, and Sisley. Corot, like many other artists, had sketched outdoors but used his sketches to create works in the studio. These works had the finish, particularly with regard to paint handling and compositional balance, that was an integral element of academic art. The Impressionists, however, not only made sketches but also painted finished works in the open, which transformed their style by preserving the spontaneity of direct observation. They adopted colors that more accurately reflected actual visual experience and avoided using blacks and browns for shadows and modeling. As a result, their paintings emphasized color, light, and atmospheric effects. Moreover, their relatively loose and open brushwork—which was immediately recognized as a hallmark of the movement—underscored their freedom from the meticulously detailed academic manner that previously had been central to French painting.
Elements of the Impressionist style had originally been developed by precursors such as Corot, Gustave Courbet, and Edouard Manet, and by the mid-1870s Manet was working in a wholly Impressionist idiom. Nonetheless, he was still hoping for official recognition and refused to show with the Impressionists. While he continued submitting work to the Salon, his Impressionist colleagues rejected the authority that institution represented. Their persistence in seeking acceptance and legitimacy by appealing directly to the public was a crucial component of the Impressionist enterprise. Despite the generally negative public response to their 1874 exhibition and the financially devastating outcome of an auction of paintings by Monet, Morisot, Renoir, and Sisley in 1875, the group carried on, holding seven more exhibitions before finally disbanding in 1886. The formulation of the Impressionist style and movement had been collaborative, but by the early 1880s individual artists had developed in different directions. Not all Impressionists adopted the Impressionist style of painting. Works be Degas, for example, are more typically realist and look different from those by Monet and Renoir, yet Degas was also an Impressionist. Membership in the group was flexible, and its exhibitions varied as the group gained and lost adherents with styles as diverse as those of Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, and Sisley. Only one artist, Pissarro, participated in all eight group manifestations.
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Book Description Abbeville Pr, 1993. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 1st. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX1558595619
Book Description Abbeville Pr, 1993. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 1558595619
Book Description Abbeville Press Inc.,U.S., 1993. Paperback. Book Condition: New. As one of the "Tiny Folio Great Museum" series, this book is designed as a tour of the Washington National Gallery's collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture. Brand new paperback copy, may have some slight shelf wear, ready for immediate despatch. Bookseller Inventory # 026140
Book Description Abbeville Pr, 1993. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P111558595619
Book Description Abbeville Pr, 1993. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New item. Bookseller Inventory # QX-176-91-1897511