Your destination will be the world of “violet trees” and a “butter sky”, a world whose
inhabitants became outcasts of an academic era because of their attempts to create an
impression. Theirs was the world of Impressionism. To reach your destination, you will
travel through museums, stopping along the way to meet the artists and to explore
examples of their use of theme, color, nature, and technique in this new style of painting.
This art adventure will allow you to grasp a composite view of the Impressionist era. Pay
attention to details, for you have just been hired to create an Impressionist painting for
our Long Beach French Class Gallery. Click the links in blue as your means of transport
to a fascinating new world of art. Use the browser back button to return to the tour. Note
that it might be necessary to scroll down in order to return to the exact spot at which you
were working. Let the journey begin.
Meet the Artists and the Era
Claude Monet
Edgar Degas
Who were some of the outstanding artists of the Impressionist era and what were they
trying to accomplish? Go to www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/theme/impressionnisme.html and
click on five of the important painters, Monet, Degas, Manet, Renoir, and Pissarro, noting
the techniques (color, theme, and brushwork) used to create their masterpieces. Clicking
on the enlargement will allow you to see more detail. As you look at the works of art,
take notes about each of these artists on the chart provided. When finished, complete the
questions or things to do, filing your responses in your journal.
1. The Impressionists collectively painted only certain subjects. Looking at the five
samples, classify these paintings into two categories.
2. Which painting most intrigued you and why?
3. What do you notice when you look at the paintings from a distance versus looking
at them close-up?
As your tour continues, you will focus on only two of the Impressionist artists, Monet
and Degas. Linking first to http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/monet/, you will find
that his career began first as a caricaturist at the age of fifteen. Look for answers to these
things to do.
1. What influence did the landscape painter, Eugene Boudin have on Monet?
2. What had Monet learned to do in order to capture the “fleeting effects of light and
3. What is a “serial” painting? Can you list two of his most celebrated serials?
Monet became a prolific painter in the 20th Century, many of his paintings of water lilies.
Many of these were paintings of his gardens at his beloved Giverny. Looking at the
landscapes of both Giverny and Vernon, one can easily understand from where Monet’s
inspiration came. Would you prefer to live at Giverny or just visit? Do you think either a
visit or life there would inspire you to paint?
Music often complements an impression. Listen to piano music of Maurice Ravel’s
“Ondine”, clicking on the word “Ondine” at
while looking at Claude Monet’s Pool of Water Lilies to see if you can hear the
“murmuring of the streams and the sparkling of the light on the water’s surface.” Write a
brief reaction in your journal.
Having met Monet, you will discover that www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/degas/
although still an Impressionist, differs from him and other Impressionists. Being born into
the upper class, his social circle afforded him the company of Edouard Manet, visits to
the horse races and backstage passes at the ballet. This becomes more evident when you
note the social and historical times in which he lived and preview his artistic style. As
you explore these materials, think about these things to do.
What noticeable changes does Degas make in his paintings from 1861 to 1862?
What is Degas’ most famous subject?
How was Degas’ treatment of a subject like that of a photographer?
What question would you ask Degas about The Laundress if he were here?
As your first tour stop comes to an end, you will want to focus on the Souvenir:
Using your artist chart, create a two-hundred word essay comparing/contrasting
Monet and Degas, in French.
Next you’ll begin your second tour stop.
Today your tour will take you to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., which
offers a distinctive look at the Impressionists in the tiny town of Argenteuil, lying on the
banks of the Seine River in France. In your visit here, you will discover why this little
town was called an “agreable petite ville,” and why the Impressionists found it a haven. It
is here that the Impressionists presented exhaustive representations of their town, its
people, rivers, boats, railways, and peaceful landscapes. To discover the wonders of
Argenteuil, enter the National Gallery’s exhibition and follow the links within the
opening page. Think about these things to do as you explore.
1. What role did the Industrial Revolution play in the development of Argenteuil?
2. Argenteuil had much to offer the Impressionists. Name one advantage of their
living in this town.
3. One often has the tendency to use the word “nice” or “pretty” when describing a
place. After looking at some of the places represented in the paintings, list three
more descriptive adjectives that you think best describe Argenteuil. If asked why
you chose these descriptors, be prepared to offer concrete examples as support.
4. The impressionists' work at Argenteuil was often a communal approach. What
does this mean?
The National Gallery of Art also offers a general Tour of Impressionism This audio tour
will take you through Rooms 1 and 2 of the gallery, giving you yet another vantage point
of the era. Pay particular attention to audio Overview and to audio clip 5 (Claude Monet,
The Bridge at Argenteuil, 1874) in room 1 and audio clip 7 (Claude Monet, The Artist’s
Garden at Vetheuil, 1880) in room 2. Don’t forget that double clicking on the picture
gives you the enlargement and also, as in clip 7, even more details. Are you ready to
depart? Let’s go. There are so many things to do.
1. Did you notice the mast of another boat in the painting before the narrator told
you of its existence? What did this one detail tell about the artist’s position when
painting this picture?
2. What is the most important element of art employed in The Artist’s Garden at
Another stop at the National Gallery focuses on the works of Degas. Room 1 holds a
collection in which you are able to see that Degas, even though the organizer of the first
Impressionist exhibit and an influential force among his colleagues, varies in approach
from others in the group. One of the things to do here will be to notice the importance of
composition to Degas. Which painting most appeals to you?
The National Gallery also lets you explore Degas’ intrigue with racehorses. Enjoy the
gallery’s tour, but focus on Image 3 and 4, Scene from the Steeplechase: the Fallen
Jockey, 1866. This was a familiar scene in France during the 1860’s, for horse racing was
becoming very popular, a scene indicative of the Modern era. Degas was truly fascinated
with the racehorse and the many scenes of the racetrack, a reflection of the
“entertainments and leisure pursuits of middle- and upper-class Parisians,” and actually
became the chronicler of this day and time. The thing for you to do would be to look
again at the image and imagine yourself as the reporter covering this event. Since these
paintings suggest a story, you will write a news article based upon your eyewitness
account. The 5 W’s (who, what, why, where, where) should be considered along with
details about the “jockey’s past riding record, about the horse’s history, and the jockey’s
condition after the fall.”
Looking again at image 8, are you amazed to find out that this is a painting within a
studio rather than that of an outdoor event?
Your souvenir from the National Gallery of Art will be to look carefully at Monet’s
painting entitled On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt, pictured below.
Thinking in terms of Impressionism, what grade would you give the artist for this work?
How did you arrive at the grade?
I hope your tour has helped you refine your understanding of Impressionism, and that you
are now ready to complete the task for which you have been hired. Get out the canvas,
brushes, and paints and move into your own studio at Long Beach. Your assignment
awaits you there.
Your Final Souvenir
According to Monet, “when you paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a
tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Instead think, ‘Here is a little square of blue, here an
oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow,’ and paint it just as it looks.” It is now your turn
to become the Impressionist. If you need some ideas for the painting, old magazines,
travel brochures, or even calendars offer many different landscapes or seascapes. If using
these, carefully observe the picture, noticing first the color. On careful examination, is it
just one particular color or a combination of colors? Think of your own observation of
the water on the lake at different times of day, the sun at sunset or sunrise, or the fluffy
clouds above. Will your colors be warm or cool? Will your brushstroke be bold or just a
splash? It is all yours to decide. Soon your own painting, titled and signed, will become a
part of the Long Beach French Class Exhibit. Good Luck.
Compare/Contrast the Impressionist Artists
Use this chart to take notes about the artists you meet on your tour.
Print this out before beginning.
Brushstroke Influences Notes