In part 2 of my exploration into Impressionism I will be considering the contributions of Edouard Manet Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir . I will consider in more depth the artistic talents of Camille Pissarro , Edgar Degas and Alfred Sisley.
Karin H Grimme in her very useful book on Impressionism considers Degas and Sisley.
” In the dancer at Rest Degas sought for artistic expression in the various media of his age. movement , music and dance form an unusual sequence in this context”. .
” In the Watering place Alfred Sisley used the shade of the newly- primed canvass for the leaden light of a winters afternoon that weighs down on the painting. The thin layer of paint and the narrow range of colours employed are typical of Sisley’s work at this period”..
Grimme goes onto mention other works of Sisley as well as commenting on the artists who painted at the garden at Vetrieul concentrating on Claude Monet.
” Sisley used the long baroque visual axis which leads across the pool and along the street into the Countryside as the composition of his painting”. .
” In four paintings Monet chose the perspective from the lower section of lawn with the steps as the central axis of the picture”. .
Grimme now comes to discuss the more proletarian artist Camille Pissarro who unlike the petit bourgeois painters Monet and Renoir tried to install some serious realism into his pictures depicting working class life.
” Camille Pissarro in the Hoarfost shows how the views come across as unspectacular as though the motif were randomly chosen”. .
” Renoir and Monet used strong Chiaroscuro contrasts”. .
Robert Atkins in his book Art Spoke a review of art movements gives a dictionary like definition to impressionism.
” Impressionist paintings are brightly coloured in contrast to the dark and muted traditions of academic painting , glazes heavy varnishes and the use of Black- as opposed to coloured -shadows were virtually banned”. .
” Daringly truncated compositions and perspectives were derived from new sources including photographs and Japanese prints”..
Atkins goes onto explore how sunlight was used very expertly to bring out the best colours in an Impressionist painting.
” Impressionist subjects involved sun-dappled landscapes city-scapes and portraits and images of newly popular entertainment , like Renoir’s glittering depictions of floating Dance halls”..
” Because of its emphasis on the dematerialising effects of light Impressionism had little influence on Sculptors who necessarily work with solid objects”. .
” The Impressionists exploration of transient effects The ability of the ephemeral play of light to break down the perceived boundaries of the material world-affronted conventional notions of Art concerned with stability and eternal values”. .
Juliet Wilson-Bareau has written a very useful book on Edouard Manet reprinting the letters he wrote. She gives a very useful introduction to the artistic and political climate Manet experienced in 19th Century Republican France.
” At the Paris salon of 1865 Edouard manet’s Olympia and his Jesus mocked by the soldiers caused a storm of outrage protest ( From the Bourgeois of course not from the masses)”. [12.
Wilson-Bareau continues her commentary recognising the mastery of Manet by showing that he founded Modernism and his art was always searching for a modern idiom which he achieved. Renoir and Monet were more successful and had the technical abilities but Manet was the true master and leader of impressionism.
” Manet’s approach to picture making was determined largely by two overriding ambitions to work in a truly modern style and present himself as an artist who could hold his own in all the categories of painting to be found in the official Paris Salon”.
” Through his use of simple compositional structures , clear bold colours and in his early years a distinctly broad flat handling of paint Manet’s work creates a powerful visual impact”. .
Of course French artistic Academia reacted against Manet and his Art in violent subjective outbursts comparing him to Gustave Courbet the Great realist and Revolutionary communard. Manet while a Republican sympathiser was not a Revolutionary as Wilson -Bareau confirms.
” The outrage created by Manet’s works and the violent tones in which critics and caricaturists responded to them in the press led to a general assumption that Manet must be the type of artist ,bohemian and Revolutionary that the public had identified with Courbet (See my articles on Courbet in this Blog)”. .
” In fact nothing could have been farther from the truth. those who knew Manet were always impressed by his elegance and charm”..
In later articles I will show that Manet represented the Flaneur who had time on his hand a very relaxed man about town , petit bourgeois in origin from the Middle class and only concerned to protect the status quo. It coincided with new developments in City architecture , design and a wholesale change to Paris.
Wilson -Bareau concludes her comments on Manet and his attitude to conventions.
” Conventions of any kind were anathema to Manet and his own strategy was to concentrate on their destruction. His most notorious pictures in the 1860’s were Le Dejeuner de Herbe and Olympia. in the 1870’s the masked ball at the Opera and Nana (Wilson Bareau conveniently forgets the Execution of Maximillien political depictions which denounced the Bonapartist’s)”. .
This concludes the second part of my article on Impressionism . In Part 3 I will consider the role of the Avant Garde in Paris with reference to the invasion of Prussian Troops into Paris and the crushing of the Paris Commune itself and its significance for Manet and other artists.
- IMPRESSIONISM KARIN H GRIMME TASCHEN PG.42
- ART SPOKE ART MOVEMENTS 1848-1944 ROBERT ATKINS PG.122
- MANET BY HIMSELF. JULIET WILSON-BAREAU. PG.8