This is the first part of a series of articles into the development of French impressionism in the 18th and 19th Century. In part 1 I will start with Edouard Manet who for me was one of the most Revolutionary of the Impressionist painters. Ironically he died first at the young age of 51.
Belinda Thompson in her book on Impressionism lays out the role of the third republic for these artists who would challenge the French salon and academia in France.
” In short the third Republic which was to become France’s largest standing republican regime and form the background to the consolidation of the impressionist group”. .
” When discussing the elective affinities of the artists who would become the Impressionists , Art Historians cite Fantin Lantour’s1870 group portrait of a collection of artists and writers gathered around the central figure of Edouard Manet”. .
Thompson confirms as I will argue that Manet was the central leader of the group and the motivating figure which inspired and developed Impressionism.
” Manet emphatically represented Painting inspired by nature”. .
” Take the notion of these artists rebelling against and breaking free from their Teachers. Manet had been a pupil of Thomas Couture (1815-79) himself an artist of considerable daring”. .
Thompson makes reference to Manet’s most controversial paintings at this time Olympia and dejeuner de’ herbe.
” What first drew Manet to the public notice were his two provocative early nude paintings which constituted the themes of Old masters”. .
” In Le dejeuner de’Herbe exhibited at the salon des refuses of 1863 an undressed woman who shares a picnic with a couple of young men”. .
Thompson goes on to describe how Olympia was received A revolutionary way to paint which has been copied by Cezanne amongst others.
” In Olympia painted in the same year but not exhibited until the salon of 1865 we come face to face with the same naked model with her fashionable red hair , her tell tale Black ribbon choker and her fancy satin mules”. .
” Where Manet was steeped in the Venetian and Spanish traditions and admired the technical mastery of Frans Hals (great Flemish Painter)”. .
The paintings displayed at the Salon were rejected and it was the influence of Manet which galvanised the new and upcoming artists who painted flat colourful realistic scenes representing the new and upcoming Middle class who would challenge the Old and outdated academic painting in France.
It would of course change the relationship of how art was perceived and would herald the beginning of Modernism in Art.
” Events in 1867 had given younger artists good reason to rally around the figure of Manet. Bazille (another Impressionist young artist) had shown the makings of an activist. it is difficult to say whether given the tempered nature of his Revolutionary ambitions he would have emerged as a leader in the 1870’s”. .
” Impressionism was born from the meeting of two Men with names so alike that at first they were often taken for one another”. .
Thompson comments on the central role of Manet and Monet . It is interesting to consider on the one hand the technical mastery of Monet and the Revolutionary aspirations of Manet. Don’t forget that Monet outlived Manet by over 30 years but Monet rarely approached controversial or political subjects in the way Manet approached them.
” Nevertheless when one examines how Impressionism developed what it consisted off and why it was quintessentially Modern Monet and Manet play central roles. The modernity of Impressionism lay not only at the level of its new range of subjects and themes , more crucially it lay in the stylistic means it used to capture the essence”. .
” For Zola Manet’s chief stylistic characteristics were on the one hand seeing in terms of broad shapes so as to capture the general impression rather than minute detail”. .
As Thompson observes Zola held Manet in great Regard.
” For Zola Manet’s virtues were simplicity , energy , Harmony and elegance or grace”. .
” Whereas Monet by 1868 was already on the path to Impressionism- he was more and more drawn to nature’s temporary aspects and lights constantly shifting appearances”. .
As Thompson comments Manet the more political of the two found difficulty in combining Art and Politics.
” Between 1867 and 12869 an uneasy attempt by Manet to combine painting and politics in a major salon statement had failed to make its mark”..
” It was Government censorship rather than artistic disapproval that stood in the way when he tried to exhibit “The Execution of emperor Maximillien at the Salon of 1869”..
Manet a stout Republican like Gustave Courbet used his art to try and force changes amongst the very narrow outlook of the French salon. He experienced some problems with them.
“This political blocking of Manet’s career and Courbet’s exile during the 1870’s (After the defeat of the French Commune of 1871 by the Bonapartist dictatorship) surely served as a cautionary tale to any radical elements within Impressionism”. .
” Manet was essentially protesting against the 19th century academic convention which persisted in categorising art according to a hierarchy of Genres that had been established in the 17th Century”. .
This concludes the first part of my articles into the development of Impressionism. The Group of Painters around Edouard Manet would finally take the French art establishment by the scruff of the neck and establish a Modernist tradition.
- IMPRESSIONISM ORIGINGS, PRACTICE RECEPTION .BELINDA THOMPSON. PG.17