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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Impressionism, a basic description

Impressionism was born in 1873 by Claude Monet , author of Impression, Sunrise; the work manifests the aesthetics of speed and blur. The art historian Richard Brettell, however, underlined the polymorphism of Impressionism: certain works are certainly impressions, like Monet's canvas (a fast, performative painting), but most of the artists ( Renoir , Degas , Caillebotte , Pissarro , Morisot …) and the works attached to this movement are characterized more by their taste for realistic or outdoor subjects, borrowed from modern life (like the crowd).

"One morning, one of us, lacking in black, used blue: Impressionism was born. »Auguste Renoir

Its history, its key ideas

Impressionism is both an aesthetic and a movement. On the aesthetic level, it celebrates modernity and the outdoors, fast scoring, bright colors. Sociologically, it refers to a group of artists who chose to exhibit on the fringes of the Official Salon between 1874 and 1886. This group mainly consists of Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Caillebotte, Morisot, Cassatt.

In 1874, the group's first exhibition took place in the premises of photographer Nadar, on Boulevard des Italiens, in Paris. Monet presents Impression, rising sun, manifest of the aesthetics of speed. The work caused sensation, criticism was unleashed against these artists considered as daubers. Impressionism (name taken from the invention of an art critic) was born!

The group is quite heterogeneous, between Monet's landscaping and the more classic realistic works of Degas and Caillebotte. The artists, however, maintain good relations. Caillebotte, who comes from a wealthy family, helps his friends by buying canvases and funding certain group exhibitions.

Impressionism could not have survived without the help of a merchant : Paul Durand-Ruel. Durand -Ruel takes artists under his wing, notably Monet. Many of them are in misery because the impressionist paintings are shunned by the Parisian public. Durand-Ruel exports Impressionism to the United States, where it rallies all the votes.

After 1886, the group was considerably disintegrated, each of the painters having concentrated on his personal career. A new generation is arriving on the public scene, that of the neo-impressionists. However, Impressionism is not dead: it is reinventing itself. Monet continues to produce important series, while Renoir revives the genre of the classical portrait.


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