19th Century, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism Essay example

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Unit 4 Individual Project:
19th Century, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism

Kyle R. Williams
History of Art I
Professor Haskins
15 July 2014
Unit 4 Individual Project:
19th Century, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
The term "Impressionism" comes from an 1872 oil on canvas painting by Claude Monet entitled “Impression, Sunrise”. Characteristic of Monet's paintings was "myriad dabs of broken color" (Benton & DiYanni, 2012, p. 456) giving his finished work a vibrant sparkle; hence the 'impression' of a momentary glimpse of beauty captured in the context of natural light. Instead of painting in studios, Impressionist painted in open-air atmosphere in order to capture the ‘impression’ of momentary shifts of natural light and how it subsequently affected color. Oftentimes, painters would repeatedly paint "the same subject at different times of the day and in different seasons" (Benton & DiYanni, 2012, p. 456) in order to "investigate the way in which changes and light and weather alter what we see" (Benton & DiYanni, 2012, p. 456).
Impressionist would reinvent the wheel in a sense, or at least reverse it. "The traditional method of oil painting was to begin with a dark background color and work up to the lighter colors. The Impressionists reversed this, beginning with a white canvas and building up to dark colors." (Benton & DiYanni, 2012, p. 456) Initially, this unorthodox methodology along with the sense of spontaneity that came along with capturing the impression of a moment was not too favorably received. An unforgiving public perspective viewed from the eyes of a conservative crowd of traditional Parisians felt these works to be "unfinished… impromptu sketches." (History of Art: The Impressionism - Claude Monet, 2014)

Impressionism didn't necessarily focus on the subject matter of an art piece but rather the overlooked complexities of the atmosphere in which any subject can be painted. Impressionism began as a form of 'complex-simplicity' that the general public of the day, having not the capacity to contemplate natural light and its affects on colors, deemed as simple and incomplete. “It was therefore difficult for the spectator to find any real message in the images.” (History of Art: The Impressionism - Claude Monet, 2014) Unable to breakaway from traditional thought, they saw impressionism as a destruction of traditional values and aesthetic ideals as well as a devaluing of subject matter.
With such rejection on behalf of art critics and the conservative regime of Napoleon III, Impressionist artists would have to display their works at the Salon des Refuses in 1863, which exhibited works rejected by the jury of the official Paris Salon. For a decade the official Salon remained stubborn to this new form of art so impressionist found their work exhibited amongst mediocrity once again at the Salon des Refuses in 1873 before they decided to take matters into their own hands the following year. The artist that did indeed comprehend this new and emerging form of art, as true artistry would band together to host their own exhibit. In 1874, 39 Impressionist artists showcased 165 works as the group’s first official event held in a photography studio in Paris. They called themselves the "Societe anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs".
One of the first paintings to cause an "immediate sensation" (Benton & DiYanni, 2012, p. 456) was Claude Monet's Haystacks at Giverny (end of summer, morning), which gave the impression of real heat. The show's catalog featured an introduction written by art critic Gustave Geffroy which reads as follows:

"[Monet] knows that the artist can spend his life in the same place and look around himself without exhausting the constantly renewed spectacle…. These stacks, in this deserted field, are transient objects whose surfaces, like mirrors, catch the mood of the environment, the states of the atmosphere with the errant breeze,