Impressionism Essays

Although many others flocked to the picturesque French village, no other California painter apparently had anything to do with its most famous resident.

Back home, enthusiasm for painting the sun-kissed landscape of Southern California was tempered by a couple of sobering realities.

The Impressionists’ decision to organize an exhibition independent of the Salon was a bold move—critics referred to it as “revolutionary”—that positioned them in opposition to the French art establishment.

After 1874, the group organized seven more exhibitions, the last one in 1886.

The purpose of the exhibition was to present their paintings directly to the public and to provide an alternative to the government’s official exhibition, popularly called the “Salon.” Considered at the time to be the only significant venue for contemporary art, the annual Salon was also the dominant marketplace for contemporary art.

Works were chosen by a jury, which in the early 1870s was widely criticized for the rigid conservatism of its tastes.Their rose-colored view of the world was rooted in unshakable certainties and plain-spoken truths. If landscape was a visible sign of God’s bounty, according to this worldview, it followed that landscape painting was a form of spiritual testimony.American artists had a duty to show the unaltered “truth” of nature; their job was to translate a radiant universe into paint.As happened in many academic disciplines, art history took new directions in the latter 20th century, when alternative methodologies offered further modes of inquiry.Shiff 1984 looks to 19th-century critics and analyzes the vocabulary they used to discuss Cézanne’s paintings.In its purist form, the term indicates works that take their subjects from contemporary life and depict them in ways that suggest the fleetingness, the transiency of modern experience, using evanescent lighting effects, bold touches of color, and brush strokes that appear to have been applied rapidly.For much of the 20th century, literature on Impressionism tended to view the movement in terms of specific artists and/or to analyze the paintings from a formalist perspective.Gerdts and Will South--this nagging difference is discussed in terms that intriguingly reflect the cultural biases of turn-of-the-century Americans.For the French painters, South writes, “the energy, warmth, brilliance and transience of light took precedence over idealizing the landscape.”But even when the California painters borrowed Impressionist innovations--such as the emphasis on light, intense color and simplified detail--these artists had a different relationship to landscape. was a great country and getting better all the time.Herbert 1988 approaches Impressionism from a Marxist perspective and brings solid social history to bear in the interpretation of Impressionist paintings.Broude 1991 challenges the gender dichotomies implicit in traditional, patriarchal assessments of Impressionism and argues against the notion of Impressionist paintings as rapidly executed, objective recordings.


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