Avant-Garde and Counter-Salon

While Impressionist painting seems very established today and is often among the most popular galleries in major museums, it initially entered the Parisian art world as very much counter to the work being exhibited the Salon, and some critics had no idea what to do with it. In fact, the term “Impressionism” derives from an insult of a critic making fun of the loose styles of artists in what came to be known as the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. The loose and visible brushwork of their paintings not only starts a formal progression towards abstraction and the liberation of color from illusion and description, but also stems from the practice of “plein air” painting, or painting outside, directly in front of the subject, in order to immediately capture the light and colors on site.

Smarthistory: Beginner’s Guide to Impressionism

Smarthistory: How the Impressionists Got Their Name

Primary Source: Leroy

What are the things that Leroy criticizes in the exhibition? What does this suggest about his usual expectations for artworks? How does Impressionism respond to modern life and technology?

Impressions of Modern Urban Subjects

In addition to responding to the fleeting impressions of light and color, Impressionists were also interested in very modern forms of life and entertainment, much like Édouard Manet, who though not identifying with the movement and not painting entire canvases en plein air did occasionally exhibit with them.

Met Museum: Impressionism, Art and Modernity

Smarthistory: Renoir, Le Moulin de la Galette

Smarthistory: The Gare Saint-Lazare

Met Museum: Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage

Morisot and Cassatt

The Impressionist’s position outside of the Salon also afforded opportunities for success for a number of women artists, especially Berthe Morisot and American expat Mary Cassatt, whose painting In the Loge we looked at in the last class.

National Gallery: Morisot, Summer’s Day

Smarthistory: Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair

What are some of the differences of access to spaces that arise when you compare the work of Morisot and Cassatt to their male contemporaries? 

Optional: Griselda Pollock, “Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity” 

Outline for Class Notes

Impressionism