Isn’t all art an impression of the artist’s transferred to canvas?
Maybe in the 21st century mind, but in the minds of most mid-nineteenth century buyers of paintings, art had rules: no painting pictures of everyday people, afternoon traffic in city streets, homely gardens, or picnickers by the shore. Realism ruled, and, even better, historical realism; paint Napoleon or Julius Caeser, not Fifi down the street selling flowers on the corner.
Painters like Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) and Edouard Manet (1832-1883) fought against these rules, first joining together as the “Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc” to create their own gallery exhibit to show the paintings that the Salon would not admit as worthy. One of Monet’s paintings, “Impression, Sunrise (Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris) exhibited in 1874, gave the Impressionist movement its name when the critic Louis Leroy accused it of being a sketch or ‘impression,’ not a finished painting” Coined as an insult, the term was adopted by the painters themselves as their badge of honor. (“Impressionism: Art and Modernity.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Web. Nov. 10, 2015.)
Though their painting styles were highly individual, all of these artists liked to paint the vivid life all around them, observe places and people in every season and time of day, to capture the way colors and textures changed in natural light using bright colors and loose, short brushstrokes. In his long career, Monet himself progressed from an early form of realism to the near abstract musings of his Water lilies or Rouen cathedral series.
Books on exhibit in the Erwin Library Reference Area for November offer a beautiful tour through the history and personalities of the Impressionist Movement, with a focus on 2015 as the 175th anniversary of Claude Monet’s birth in Paris.