19th Century Art--4

[ Introduction ] [ Realism ] [ Early Impressionists ] [ More Impressionists ] [ Post-Impressionists ]

"Gustave Caillebotte: Impressionist Paintings from Paris to the Sea"
< http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/03/27/arts/20090327-CAIL_index.html >

Art critic Karen Rosenberg says of Impressionism, it is "like fashion...dedicated to the fleeting sensation" (C25).

Éduard Dégas (1834-1917) was also influenced by Realism, photography, and Japanese woodblock prints. As seen in the examples here, he rejected the heroic and historic genre so favored by the Salon and Meissonier, preferring to depict La vie moderne. Art historians comment on his "qualities of observation and detachment," particularly evident in his ballerina paintings (Witt, et al. 359). He mastered the technique (to become a hallmark of the Impressionists) to capture a "fleeting" moment in time (359). In keeping with the acronym "ELBOW," Dégas observed and depicted everyday life in all of its isolation and misery, poignantly evident in L'Absinthe (1876). The painting presents "an excellent example of Dégas's scenes drawn from café life. He organizes the picture plane to suggest the isolation and misery of the many anonymous, lower-class workers who streamed into the cities after 1870" (Witt, et al. 359).


image source < http://www.mystudios.com/art/impress/degas-absinthe.html >


Later, Dégas turned to increasingly abstract images, as in Blue Dancers (1890.) He "studied the infinite variety of...movement and...the kinesthetic qualities of bodies in motion--especially racehorses, bathers,...and ballet dancers" (Tansey and Kleiner 985). Dégas' ballet paintings and sculptures "helped to make his fame as an artist" and are worth multiple viewings (Macaulay B1). If you notice, few (though admittedly some) of his ballet paintings and sculptures actually portray dancers dancing.

image source < http://www.indiana.edu/~fritciv/html/cat013.html >


Dance Class at the Opera (1872) is only one example of Dégas' many ballet paintings. Like many of his contemporaries, Dégas was fascinated with photography and often took pictures he intended to paint later. Tansey and Kleiner comment on his "cunning spatial projection" (987). At the Salon of 1874, he admired the work of American artist Mary Cassatt, whose art he clearly influenced.

image source < http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ij/impressionism.Pissarro.html >
For a slide show featuring several of Dégas' statues of dancers from 2008 shows at
the Museum of Modern Art and the Frick Collection at the Brooklyn Museum, visit

< http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/09/03/arts/design/20080903_3DEGA_SLIDESHOW_index.html >

In 2011, art critic Alastair Macaulay wrote, "But certainly no great artist has
ever returned to the mechanics and sociology of the professional dancer's
art more often than Dégas or has understood them so well" ("Workers" 1).
For more Dégas ballet images, visit

< http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/arts/dance/degass-ballet-at-the-phillips-collection-and-royal-academy.html?_r=1&ref=dance >

Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) represent Impressionism at its peak.
They went far beyond Realism and the attempt to represent the natural world.
Fascinated with color and light, they experimented with new kinds brushstrokes.
Monet, in particular defined "a delicate balance between the need to paint
what is seen and the need to paint what is felt" (Witt, et al. 361). He "remained true to
Impressionism's ideal of recording the fleeting transformations of sunlight on objects"
(Witt, et al. 361)

The paintings below represent Monet's mastery of Impressionism, though many of his
contemporaries reacted negatively to his "crude" and "unfinished" paintings.

"Monet will forever by known for his dreamy impressionist canvases of grain stacks and cathedrals, the seaside and of course the famous water lilies and gardens that surrounded his beloved home in Giverny" (Vogel B1). He was the en plein air painter par excellence, as almost all of his works attest and as is evident in Haystacks at Chailly at Sunrise, which he painted in 1865. Like other Impressionists, Monet painted out-of-doors (en plein air,) constantly trying to capture "the illusive effects of sunlight on objects" (Witt, et al. 360).

image source < http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ij/impressionism.Monet.html >


A contemporary, Dr. Béguin Billecocq, wrote of Monet, his "'...sketches, whether in crayon or pencil, were always excellent, even if...rapidly executed'" (Vogel B5). By the 1860s, Monet was already showing signs of the brilliance that would characterize his works. Poppies, painted in 1873, is one of his most famous and most charming. "The apparition of color challenged him everywhere: gardens, fields in bloom, rocky coasts..." (Tansey and Kleiner 990).

image source < http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ij/impressionism.Monet.html >

It's somewhat astonishing to think that Impressionists such as Monet--so much copied today--met with a hostile reception by their contemporaries who considered their work "crude and unfinished" (Witt, et al. 360,) as was the case with St. Lazare Station, which he painted in 1877. Can you see the influence of Turner's Rain, Steam, and Speed?

image source < http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ij/impressionism.Monet.html >

A prolific artist, Monet painted the same thing (e.g. Haystacks, the Cathédrale at Rouen) over and over again in different lights. In later life, he built his beautiful retreat at Giverny and developed his water garden, which again, he painted over and over . He began a series of water lilies in 1899, finally focusing virtually all of his energies on these masterpieces. In these canvases, "...we witness a delicate balance between the need to paint what is seen and the need to paint what is felt" (Witt, et al. 361). On your right is Water Lilies (The Clouds,) painted in 1903.  

image source < http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/monet/waterlilies/ >


And Waterlilies, Green Reflection, which Monet painted over the time frame, 1916-1923

image source < http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/monet/waterlilies/ >

< http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ij/impressionism.Monet.html > left The Painter's Garden at Giverny (1900)
< http://www.indiana.edu/~fritciv/html/cat013.html > right 1920 photograph of Monet on the Japanese Bridge


Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) achieved almost as much fame as Monet.

One of Renoir's most famous paintings, Le Moulin de la Galette (1876) captures the bright gaity of a Sunday throng at a popular Montmartre dance hall. It is characteristic of the artist's "celebration of vivacious charm" (Tansey and Kleiner 992). "The whole scene is dappled by sunlight and shade, artfully blurred...to produce just that effect of floating and fleeting light so cultivated by the Impressionists" (992-993). The painting captures both a "fleeting moment in time" and la vie moderne.

image source < http://www.indiana.edu/~fritciv/html/cat013.html >

Renoir painted Girl with Watering Can in 1876. He was considered a specialist in the human figure, "a sympathetic admirer of what was beautiful in the body and what was pleasurable in the simple round of human life" (992). This painting has been reproduced so often as a poster or in a calendar as to seem more trite today than it did when it first appeared in 1876.

image source < http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ij/impressionism.Morisot.html >

In 1881, Renoir painted The Luncheon of the Boating Party (Le Déjeuner des Canotiers,) which contains various of his friends and acquaintances. Author Susan Vreeland (The Girl in Hyacinth Blue) has written a charming, fictional account (Luncheon of the Boating Party) of how Renoir cajoled fourteen of his friends to pose, week after week as he captured a particular and specific moment in time en plein air and la vie moderne.

image source < http://www.artlex.com/ArtLex/ij/impressionism.Morisot.html >

A recent exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art suggests that Renoir stepped back from the innovaton, ground-breaking experiments of the Impressionists, returning to earlier traditions. Holland Carter quotes Renoir as admiring the rococo masters, Boucher and Watteau; he said, "'I am of the 18th century'" (C23). In addition, Renoir, in the 1890s, needed to support a wife and family, i.e. he had to offer and sell what the public wanted to see and buy. Indeed, from a new base in the South of France, he concentrated on themes of family, landscape, and the female nude. One example of Renoir's later work (1919) is The Bathers, described disparagingly by Holland Carter as a "woozy image of two mammoth pink nudes reclining in a pastoral landscape," comparing the buxom beauties with "two croissants on a plate of greens..." (C23).

image source < http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/18/arts/design/18renoir.html?scp=1&sq=renoir&st=cse >

Follow link to see slideshow of late Renoir
< http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2010/06/18/arts/design/20100618-RENOIR-ss-1.html >



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BIBLIOGRAPHY (incomplete)

Cotter, Holland. "Avant-Gardist in Retreat." The New York Times, June 18, 2010.

Macaulay, Alastair. "Degas's Ballet Students Teach the Lessons of Their Art." The New York Times,
September 3, 2008.

Macaulay, Alastair. "Workers Wearing Toeshoes." The New York Times.
September 4, 2011.

Pioch, Nicholas. "Monet, Claude." WebMuseum, Paris. Online Available.
< http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/monet/ >

Rosenberg, Karen. "Soigné Parisians, Fit for a Grand Canvas."
The New York Times: Weekend Arts, February 10, 2012.

Tansey, Richard and Fred Kleiner. Gardner's Art through the Ages, vol. ii, 10th edition.
Fort Worth, et al.: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1996.

Vogel, Carol. "Revealing the Monet of Pencil and Paper." The New York Times. January 17, 2007.

Vreeland. Susan. Luncheon of the Boating Party. New York: Viking: 2007.

Witt, Mary Anne, et al. The Humanities, vol. ii, 5th edition. Boston and New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.