Impressionist painting


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The now famous art movement founded in the 19th- century Paris known as French Impressionism truly represents the genesis of modern art. At few points in the history of western art has there existed such a maelstrom of artistic revolutions as during this period. It all began in 1874 with a group of young painters who organized the first of eight exhibitions after being rejected by the official Paris Salon for not adhering to the fundamental standards of the Academy. The pioneers of Impressionism who banded together to organize these important exhibits included Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin and Paul Cézanne. Although they exhibited work together for just twelve years, from 1874 to 1886, many painters continued to work in an Impressionist mode for another thirty years, as in the case of Monet, the father of Impressionism, who worked in the Impressionist style until his death in 1926. The stylistic period following the last official Impressionist show is often described as Post-Impressionism, roughly 1886-1910, during which time Impressionism continued while additional artistic philosophies were developing.

The term Post-Impressionism is not useful in describing a distinct stylistic change from Impressionist painting, but rather a general expression for the gradual evolution of modern art that occurred during and after the Impressionist movement. While art historians attempt to clearly define artistic movements by classifying them within definitive years, in reality this is impossible to do. Many schools of painting overlapped and similarly most painters dabbled in a multitude of painting styles, especially during this transitory late-19th century. These schools are all loosely lumped together, for lack of a more definitive term, under the heading of a Post-Impressionism. This is a misnomer, however, because it merely indicates a particular time period.


French Impressionism had far reaching effects both concurrently and subsequently in many countries worldwide. Americans, Belgians, Dutch, Italians and others took and adapted the plein-air techniques, depictions of modern day life and colorful brushwork, each country developing its own interpretation.

The artistic revolutionaries of the late-19th century were viewed at the time as radicals for breaking away from traditional art. While Impressionism transformed many artists and critics and offered the public a refreshing, new view of the world, there were those who still favored the work of the Academics who continued to dominate the Paris Salon. mid-19th century academic masters like Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier and Joseph Ingres had always represented “accepted” art, and painters like William Bougereau continued that tradition throughout Impressionist and Post-Impressionist period. The French academies and official Salon embodied the classical and traditional teaching institutions of the period. Membership was by invitation and artists had to adhere to strict rigid requirements for entry and acceptance.

Many artists found these requirements too restrictive and wanted the Salon to accept their submissions even if they strayed stylistically from academic teaching. When a record number of artists over seven hundred, were refused fro the Salon, their voices were heard by the state. Napoleon III set up the Salon des Refusés in 1863 as a venue for their work. Though many of the exhibitors at the Salon des Refusés were ridiculed, its existence was of monumental consequence to the development of modern art and it proved to undermine the importance of the official Salon, leading to the creation of other subsequent exhibition venues for the visionary artists of the late-19th century.

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