Europe 1800 - 1900
- A beginner's guide to Impressionism
- What does “Impressionism” mean?
- How the Impressionists got their name
- Impressionist color
- Impressionist pictorial space
- Degas, The Bellelli Family
- Degas, At the Races in the Countryside
- Degas, The Dance Class
- Degas, Visit to a Museum
- Caillebotte, The Floor Scrapers
- Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day
- Caillebotte, Man at his Bath
- Morisot, The Cradle
- A summer day in Paris: Morisot's Hunting Butterflies
- Cassatt, In the Loge
- Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair
- Cassatt, Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge
- Cassatt, The Loge
- Cassatt, The Child's Bath
- Mary Cassatt, The Coiffure
- Cassatt, Breakfast in Bed
- How to recognize Monet: The Basin at Argenteuil
- Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise
- Monet, The Argenteuil Bridge
- Painting modern life: Monet's Gare Saint-Lazare
- Monet, The Gare Saint-Lazare
- Monet, Cliff Walk at Pourville
- Monet's Wheatstacks (Snow Effect, Morning): Getty conversations
- Monet, Poplars
- Monet, Rouen Cathedral Series
- Monet, Water Lilies
- How to Recognize Renoir: The Swing
- Renoir, La Loge
- Renoir, The Grands Boulevards
- Renoir, Moulin de la Galette
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Portrait of Madame Charpentier and Her Children
- Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party
- Renoir, The Large Bathers
The First Impressionist Exhibition, 1874
Although the idea originated with Claude Monet, Degas is largely responsible for organizing the very first Impressionist exhibition. After much debate, the artists—including Degas, Monet, Renoir, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley, Boudin, and even the young Cézanne—along with many other lesser-known figures, chose to call themselves the Société Anonyme des Artistes. This group included painters, sculptors, printmakers, and others.
The exhibition opened in Paris on April 15, 1874. It was held at 35 Boulevard des Capucines, on the top floor and former studio of the photographer, Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, better known as Nadar. He was a friend of several of the artists and well-known for his portraits of the Parisian literati.
Serious criticism or Tongue-In-Cheek?
Although the first Impressionist exhibition was well attended, the critics were merciless. Trained to expect the polished illusions of the Salon painters, they were shocked by the raw, unblended, ill-defined paint used by Degas, Renoir, Monet and company. The satirical magazine, Le Charivari published an account of a visit with Joseph Vincent, an accomplished and conservative painter:
Upon entering the first room, Joseph Vincent received an initial shock in front of the Dancer by M. Renoir.'What a pity,' he said to me, 'that the painter, who has a certain understanding of color, doesn't draw better; his dancer's legs are as cottony as the gauze of her skirts.'...Unfortunately, I was imprudent enough to leave him [Joseph Vincent] in front of the "Boulevard des Capucines," by [Monet].'Ah-ha! he sneered.... Is that brilliant enough, now!' 'There's impression, or I don't know what it means.' 'Only be so good as to tell me what those innumerable black tongue-lickings in the lower part of the picture represent?''Why, those are people walking along,' I replied.'Then do I look like that when I'm walking along the Boulevard Capucines?' 'Blood and Thunder!' 'So you're making fun of me!' '...What does that painting depict?' 'Look at the Catalogue.' 'Impression Sunrise.' 'Impression--I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it...and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape!'"*
And on it goes, ever more sarcastically. The article was titled, "Exhibition of the Impressionists," and the term stuck. From then on, these artists were called Impressionists.
Essay by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
*Linda Nochlin, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, 1874-1904: Sources and Documents (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1966), pp. 10-13.
Want to join the conversation?
- Why did Monet use the word impression in title:Impression, Sunrise.(7 votes)
- this was explained in the article that precedes this one, an "impression" was a sketch or quickly done piece that was intended to act as an aid to the memory when doing the finished painting that followed. There was already a category in existence for what they did, and what the impressionists produced looked like things from that category. The difference, at least in this case, was that they considered the paintings as finished works.(8 votes)
- How come we can't draw just read??(0 votes)
- The article mentions that the critical reception of the first Impressionist exhibition was overwhelmingly negative. Were there any positive reviews? If so, what kind of aspects did those reviews highlight, and what kinds of people wrote them?(1 vote)
- From the author:There certainly were positive reviews. As always, the differences were varied: political, generational, philosophical, aesthetic, or just what was expected by a particular critic's audience..(2 votes)
- Did the impressionists signal the end of the government controlled Salons or did they continue? For how long?(1 vote)
- No, not at all. As said, the Impressionists were not well received. There was a lot of controversy caused by their work and because of the bad press they found it hard to sell. The impressionists only held eight exhibitions altogether. These were between 1874 and 1886. The Salon kept thriving, its popularity only beginning to dwindle around 1890- after the last impressionism exhibition, so seemingly its downfall was unrelated to them.(1 vote)