Impressionists Artists: 5 Facts About 5 Impressionist Artists - An Overview
Poppy Fields near Argenteuil by Claude Monet - 1873
Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre Auguste Renoir - 1881
The main Impressionist movement is generally thought to run through the late nineteenth century, from around the 1860s to 1890s. The distinguishing feature of an Impressionist painting is the way the painters attempted to paint a scene exactly as the eye sees it. They were very interested in the way light affected a scene and so a great majority of their works are set outdoors. This had a knock on effect that most Impressionist paintings use bright and vivid colours, as there was a lot of light to highlight an object's natural colour. They were less concerned with the detail and correct portrayal of a scene, and more worried about capturing the way the light hit an object and how its colour might change in the sun. Another effect of this is that most work was painted quite quickly before the light changed, and you can see this in the use of thicker but delicate brush strokes and the lack of detail.
In Paris around the Impressionist time, every artist endeavoured to have his canvases displayed at the Salon. The Salon was a government run exhibition whose submissions came from students of the Ecole des Beaux Arts amongst others. Most Impressionist artists had maybe one or two paintings exhibited in the Salon but none of them were really met with wide acclaim. In fact more often than not they had negative criticisms. The Parisian aristocracy never seemed to take to Impressionism, even the name Impressionism originates from a derivative comment made by a journalist. With the exception of Edouard Manet, the Impressionist artists displayed instead in a series of 8 exhibitions initially started by Claude Monet in 1874. The first few exhibitions had the biggest success, at least the biggest turn-outs. Monet and Degas were among the few that appeared at every exhibition.
Self Portrait of Edouard Manet
Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883)
Manet is generally regarded as the first of the Impressionist painters. Monet and Renoir are both known to have admired his paintings and the experimental nature which he adopted. Manet used to chair informal debates at the Cafe Guerbois, where Monet, Renoir, Degas and others used to meet on a regular basis. He never participated in their exhibitions, but he did offer help and support (both financial and otherwise) to the other Impressionist painters if they needed it. He preferred to try to have his work in exhibited in galleries supported by the French government, even though he was constantly pushing their conservative boundaries. Although he was seen as the leader of the Impressionists, many do not believe his work truly embodied what we now recognise as the Impressionist style (the bright colours and propensity to light).
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Self Portrait of Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917)
While Degas is most often associated with painting ballet dancers, his talents and influence reach much further than this. Throughout his artistic career he was constantly experimenting with different media, creating masterpieces with pastels, lithograph, etching, photography and later in life, sculpturing. Edgar Degas’ work is often characterised as being linear, which is something he likely picked up from his travels in Italy when he studied the work of for example, Michelangelo. Conversely, Degas was also attracted to colour and the exploration of what he could do with it. During the classical period at least, these two things seemed to be in contrast to each other; Ingres was a proponent of the severe line while lyrical colour was championed by Eugene Delacroix. It seems that both of these were huge influences on Edgar Degas.
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Self Portrait of Claude Monet
Claude Monet (1840 - 1926)
While Manet may have been the first Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, I would say, is possibly the most influential. He’d travelled around Western Europe and knew the majority of Impressionist painters well. Manet is said to have been impressed with Monet’s style and spent a lot of time painting with him, and commissioned paintings from him. Renoir and Bazille, amongst others, had visited Monet at his house in Giverny painting his gardens with him and even posing for him. During his later life Monet became keen on producing series of paintings. He’d paint the same scenes several times over at different times of the year or of the day to see what effects the light had on a scene. Among these series of paintings are the ‘Houses of Parliament’ and ‘Charing Cross Bridge.’
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Self Portrait of Pierre Auguste Renoir
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s early work truly embodies the Impressionist style. Throughout the 1870s he worked with Monet studying light and movement, using broken colour to emphasis the sunlight hitting an object. ‘The Swing’ is a great example of a painting that captures the essence of Renoir but also strongly embodies all the Impressionist features; light colours, delicate brush strokes and contrasting light and shadow. After he spent some time in Italy in the 1880s viewing classical and traditional art, he turned his attention to portraits and painting people rather than practising the plein air technique. This is often called his ‘Ingres Period’. Later on in his life he went back to using the thin brush strokes of the more typical Impressionist style, although he is often more abstract than many others.
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Self Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890)
Van Gogh is not always technically classed as an Impressionist painter. I think usually the correct term is post-impressionist, but he was painting at the same time as many of the typical Impressionists, he spent time around many of them in Paris and gained inspiration from their work. Looking chronologically through his eight hundred paintings, the point where he began to be influenced by these other Impressionists is clear. Compare these two self portraits; this one, painted soon after he arrived in Paris and another painted just after he left Paris. Not only are the colours considerably more vibrant but the brush strokes are completely different; the older paintings showing more detail in the subject, while the later works have less detail but bolder brush strokes.
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