Reply To: Impressionism

  • Encyclios

    May 16, 2023 at 1:41 PM

    Impressionism in painting – Chronology and protagonists

    Historically, Impressionism is limited to the years 1874-86 (dates that correspond to the group’s first and last exhibitions). However, most of the historiographers of the movement (L. Venturi, J. Rewald, J. Leymarie, J. Lassaigne, K. Cogniat, F. Mathey, G. Bazin) have long debated the problem of these chronological boundaries: on the one hand, as early as 1869, Monet and Renoir intuitively resorted to what were to be its fundamental principles; on the other hand, from 1886, the promoters of the movement themselves modified the elements of their language; Cézanne, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec set out to find new solutions; Seurat and Signac aimed at a sort of codification.

    Some historians (Venturi, among them) include in the group of Impressionists only the coryphaei of the movement, while others (e.g. Rewald) admit all the artists who exhibited with the group. In addition to recognizing the influence of Impressionism on music (C. Debussy, G. Paure) or literature (J. Laforgue, M. Proust), most historians rightly recognize a relationship between Impressionism and science. It would be wrong, however, to overstretch the scope of this relationship: the empirical use of colors by the Impressionists agreed spontaneously with the theory of the decomposition of light through the prism formulated by Eugène Chevreul in his Law of the simultaneous contrast of colors (1839); but the first Impressionists never gave themselves a rigorous methodology, unlike the younger Seurat and Signac, who referred to the work of H. L. F. Helmholtz. L. F. Helmholtz (1878) and N. O. Rood (1881), J. C. Maxwell and Ch. Henry.

    With the exception of Camille Pissarro and Gustave Caillebotte, all the masters of Impressionism were born within a decade or so: between 1832 and 1841. They were, for the most part, Parisians or moved to the capital at an early age, and belonged to the wealthy bourgeoisie. They are Edouard Manet, Edgard Degas, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, and then Armand Guillaumin, Frédéric Bazille, Berthe Morisot and Auguste Renoir. The circle of Impressionists also included F. Bracquemond, the American J. Whistler, Zacharie Astruc, Henri Fantin-Latour and Mary Cassat. To a later generation belong Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, Henri-Edmond Cross, George Seurat, Paul Signac and Henri deToulouse-Lautrec. As chance would have it, all of them, around 1860, met in Paris, either around Monet studying at the Atelier Gleyre (Bazille, Renoir, Sisley), or around Pissarro working freely at the so-called Académie Suisse (Cézanne, Guillaumin), or, finally, copying at the Louvre (Degas, Manet, Morisot).