its influences and its impact

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In 1874 a group of French painters held an independent exhibition in Paris. Later dubbed the Impressionists these painters revolutionised art. They broke away from conventions of subject and technique and changed the way we look at art. A major exhibition in

Canberra,

Turner To Monet: The Triumph Of Landscape, looks at the Impressionists, their influences and how they in turn influenced artists to follow.

What is Impressionism?

Impressionism is a style of art that was pioneered by a group of French artists in the 19th century. These artists were trying to paint an impression of a moment in time, looking at the effects of light on scenery, people and objects around them. The Impressionists painted ordinary, everyday subject matter, mostly landscapes and scenes from contemporary life that were often painted in the open air. With the advent of photography in the mid-19th century artists realised that machines now had the ability to reproduce images from reality on canvas, so artists should depict the world in a way that couldn’t be captured by cameras. Their paintings therefore did not show smoothly painted surfaces but were made up of short brushstrokes of broken colour that from a distance blend together. Even areas that are meant to depict white or black are usually made up of many colours.

Series 8

7

The only merit I have is to have painted directly from nature with the aim of conveying my impressions in front of the most fugitive effects

— Claude Monet

Its Influences and Its Impact

n

Impressionist paintings did not show smoothly painted surfaces but were made up of short brushstrokes of broken colour that blended when viewed from a distance.

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Perhaps the best known Impressionist, Monet was a central figure in the art movement. He was inspired to become a painter by artist

Eugene Boudin, who was an artist noted for his landscapes and for his liking for painting

en plein-air

(in the open air). Monet studied briefly at the studio of Charles Gleyre, where he became friends with students Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Jean-Frederic

Bazille. Failing to have his works exhibited in the official Paris Salon,

Monet mounted an independent exhibition in 1874 that is regarded as the first Impressionist exhibition. By the 1880s he had stopped exhibiting with the other Impressionists and mostly held solo shows. In his later years he turned to painting series showing the same scenes painted at different times of the day.

Claude Monet

Haystacks, Midday

by

Claude Monet (1890).

Picture: NATIONAL GALLERY

OF AUSTRALIA

Tree Trunks In The Grass

by Vincent van Gogh

(1890 ), Kröller-Müller

Museum, Otterlo, The

Netherlands.

Picture: NATIONAL GALLERY

OF AUSTRALIA

Impressionist exhibitions

The popularity of Impressionist art has grown over time, so that exhibitions of Impressionist works often draw big crowds to galleries.

Impressionist paintings are spread around the globe and shows featuring more than a handful of important works are rare. Mounting an exhibition is difficult because works by artists such as Monet are extremely valuable and major galleries need to make special arrangements to lend their prized paintings to other galleries. The artworks need to be insured, carefully packed and transported. Most also require specific conditions of display and storage to preserve the art. While some exhibitions also fail to put an art movement in its context, the National Gallery’s Turner To Monet shows a logical progression of art leading up to, and inspired by, the Impressionists.

Turner To Monet

– March 14 to June 9, 2008, National Gallery of

Australia, Canberra. For details see nga.gov.au/turnertomonet

Bookings are essential for all education programs and school groups.

Entry to

Turner To Monet: The Triumph Of Landscape

is free for all booked school groups. Email [email protected], or phone 6240 6519 for more details.

Tuesday 11.30am on

Impression, Sunrise (Impression, Soleil Levant)

by Claude Monet (1872). The painting that gave the name to the art movement Impressionism

Why Impressionists?

In 1874 a group of more than 50 independent artists held an exhibition outside the state-sponsored art exhibition known as the Salon. Among the paintings displayed was

Monet’s Impression, Sunrise. One critic, Louis Leroy, wrote a scathing article under the headline “The Exhibition of the Impressionists”, saying the painting looked unfinished.

Although he meant the word impressionist as an insult the artists adopted it for their movement.

Influences on Impressionism

Impressionists were influenced by the growing number of artists who painted real outdoor landscapes as they observed them, as opposed to artists who painted imaginary or idealised scenes created in their studio. Artists such as British painter John Constable (1776-1837) began painting everyday country scenes, with a spontaneity and expressiveness that made the scene feel like a fleeting moment in time.

Another influence was British artist

Joseph Turner (1775-1851) who painted romantic landscapes but whose studies of the effects of light in his paintings inspired the

Impressionists. French artist Jean Baptiste

Self portrait by Joseph Turner

Camille Corot (1796-1875), particularly his landscapes, was influential. Monet said, “There is only one master here – Corot. We are nothing compared to him, nothing.”

French artist Edouard Manet (1832-83) was also a direct influence on the Impressionists with his use of colour, bold brushstrokes and choice of everyday subjects.

Rocky Bay With Figures

by J. M. W. Turner (c.1830),

Tate Britain © Tate, London 2008.

Picture: NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

Holiday Sketch At Coogee

by Tom Roberts (1888).

Picture: ART GALLERY OF NSW

Impressionism in Australia

Australian artists were influenced by the Impressionists. English-born,

Australia-based artist Tom Roberts (1856-1931) spent time in Europe soaking up influences, hearing about the ideas of the Impressionists.

He returned to Australia to spread these ideas to an influential group of painters, including Arthur Streeton, Charles Conder, Frederick McCubbin and Jane Sutherland. Roberts and McCubbin were both students of Eugene

Von Guerard who painted many wilderness scenes and showed a concern with light. Australia’s climate was well suited to painting in the open air, the fashion favoured by the French Impressionists, and the Australian

Impressionists produced some of the most memorable scenes of late 19th century Australia. Roberts most famous paintings are The Shearing Of The

Rams and The Golden Fleece, showing a typical scene from rural Australia.

Lake Geneva

by Camille Corot (1839),

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia.

Picture: NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

Bush Fire Between Mt Elephant And Timboon

by Eugene Von Guerard (1859),

Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.

Picture: NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

Lucerne, Saint-Denis

by Georges Seurat (1885),

National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Picture: NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

Haystacks In Brittany

by Paul Gauguin (1890),

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

Picture: NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA

Post Impressionism and beyond

By the time of the last formal Impressionist exhibition in 1886 many new trends in art were already emerging, inspired by or as a reaction to Impressionism. Artists later grouped together under the name

Post-Impressionists exhibited together but had very different ideas on art. Georges Seurat developed a style known as pointillism using dots of colour to create highly stylised scenes, rather than the more natural ones favoured by Impressionists. Paul Gaugin and Vincent van Gogh rejected Impressionism’s objectivity and began painting with more emotion, using colour more expressively. Paul Cezanne painted figures, landscapes and still life compositions, showing concern for the underlying structure rather than the effects of light. The Post-Impressionist artists veered off in many different directions. Some took more emotional or psychological directions, leading to movements such as Expressionism and Surrealism, while others were more interested in pure visual elements, leading to cubism and abstract art.

Find out more

Sources and further study:

Impressionism: Origins, Practice, Reception

by Belinda Thompson

(Thames & Hudson)

Artists In Profile: Impressionists

by Jeremy Wallis (Heinemann)

Encyclopedia Britannica

Editor:

TROY LENNON

Designer:

PAUL LEIGH

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