A Lasting Impression
From Revolutions And Wars To Literature And Art
History consists of moments in time that hold a profound and everlasting effect, or impression, on humanity as a whole. From revolutions and wars to literature and art, we are all a product of what has been said, done, written and even painted by those brave enough to break free from the mold, or as some would say, color outside of the lines.
In 1874, one of those moments occurred when a movement in Paris by a group of local artists violated the modern rules of the time and transformed the world of art forever.
Impressionism emerged during a time of transformation-- as Emperor Napoleon III rebuilt Paris and waged war; the Académie des Beaux-Arts dominated French art. The Académie upheld traditional French painting standards of content and style. Historical subjects, religious themes, and portraits were treasured; landscape, modern settings and nature were not.
That was until four young painters—Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Frédéric Bazille joined forces and discovered a mutual detest for secular scenes and a preference for the natural beauty of landscapes and contemporary life. The united artists formed a group and called themselves the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc. and though each had his own unique form of painting, they appeared to the public as a group.
Opponents of the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc. unfavorably reviewed the masterpieces that now hang in world-renowned museums. According to the critics, the works of art had the appearance of being sketch life and unfinished. The actual term, “impressionism” took hold of the art movement by an unimpressed art critic. In 1874, critic Louis Leroy complained that Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise (Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris) looked more like a sketch or “impression.” Leroy accused the painting of not being a finished painting at all.
Leroy was not entirely wrong in his critique. The techniques and colors used by Impressionists shocked the eyes by using short, broken brushstrokes that lightly formulated an image, pure unblended colors, and a play on the effects of light. However, what appeared careless in the use of short, loose brushstrokes was a result of Impressionists yearning to record their experiences of modern life in urban and suburban settings in a direct and realistic way.
Impressionism Was More Than A Movement Of Art
One of the prominent details of the Impressionist movement that changed the world of art forever was the use of color. During the 19th century, color options expanded as enhanced versions of established pigments began to develop, such as blue, yellow and green. Édouard Manet’s Boating is a prime example of the flourishing use of blue, or the new cerulean blue of the time, seen in the vibrancy of the ocean and the simplicity of the woman’s dress.
As brushstroke techniques and use of color were essential components of Impressionism, one cannot forget about landscapes. The forward-thinking artists of the movement mainly lived outside the city life of Paris and in the country, using the plein-air approach by setting up their easels to capture scenery more intensely. Monet’s Poppy Fields near Argenteuil and Auguste Renoir’s A Road in Louveciennes encapsulate the perfect pairing of painting out-of-doors to produce a work of art that allows the audience to see exactly what the artist saw and feel exactly what the artist felt.
Impressionism was more than a movement of art. It was a moment in time that forever changed the way we see and interpret the world around us. The artists, the techniques and the paintings themselves have left a lasting, beautiful impression on the realm of art and humanity forever.