Impressionism (19-20th c.) • Paris, France • Artists who rejected established styles, incorporated new technology and ideas, and depicted modern life. • “Impressionism”: criticism; work was more impression than depiction of subject matter. • Monet’s Impression, Sunrise.
Background • Major art societies in Europe: Academie des Beaux-Arts in France (est. 1648) and The Royal Academy of Art in England (est. 1768). • Set standard for what was considered “art.” • Curriculum based on ancient Classical art and European tradition.
Style & Technique • Painting en plein air; everyday subjects • Emphasis on the effect of light; pure, unblended color; no use of black or outline • Spontaneous and effortless feeling; movement; cropped compositions • Visible, short broken brushstrokes; unusual visual angles, perspectives
Photography & Impressionism • Emerging science of color theory. • Development of camera/photography: candid groupings, off-center focus, deep perspectives, foreshortening, and spontaneity. • Real world rather than world of imagination. • Depict people and landscapes without mythological or historical exaggerations
Popular Subjects • Contemporary urban and rural life. • Modernization/industrialization. • Rural: • leisure activities: boating and bathing. • daily life and work of villagers. • Rural landscapes: factories and railways
Popular Subjects (cont.) • Urban: • renovated Paris: wide boulevards, public gardens, grand buildings. • Parisians: working class, privileged class, singers, dancers. • Leisure time in Paris: theatrical entertainment, cafes, popular concerts, and dances.
Edgar Degas • Born in Paris; father (French banker) and mother (American from New Orleans) encouraged to pursue art; also received degree in literature. • Trained at Ecole des Beaux Arts; classical training. • Traveled to Italy to visit family; inspired by studying Renaissance artists. • Served in National Guard during Franco-Prussian War. • Poor eyesight impacted painting and led in later life to work in sculpture.
Degas: Subjects • Concerned with realism in art (didn’t consider himself an Impressionist); depicted subjects from everyday life and actual experiences: • Some landscapes • Laundresses, milliners, ballet dancers, women bathing • Subjects reflect social issues: • Rise of bourgeoisie and working class (service industry) • Leisure pursuits of wealthy
Degas: Technique & Style • Degas’ style and technique reflects classical training at Ecole des Beaux Arts. • Technique: • Did not work en plein air • Worked from memory and sketches • Style: • Unusual perspectives • Interested in gestures and movements of human figures • Media: oils, watercolors, pastels, pencil, etching, photography, sculpture
Degas: Analysis • L’Absinthe, 1876. • Medium: Oil on canvas. • Subject: relationship between this man and woman. • My reaction: The people are sad and detached. They seem to be together but there is a lack of closeness between them. • Analysis (includes art elements and design principles): The space between them emotionally is created by the space between them physically in the painting. A space divides the painting in two; he is on one side, she the other. Further, the man’s back is reflected in the mirror behind the figures. In essence, he “turns his back on her.” The colors are subdued and monochromatic earth • tones suggesting a lack of liveliness or vitality in their relationship. There is also a lack of movement in the painting, the figures are still. This suggests the couple are stuck in their unhappiness.
Degas: Analysis • Blue Dancers, 1899 (below right). • More abstract figures - no facial features or expression • “Types” based on profession
Claude Monet (1840-1926, France)
Post-Impressionism • Art that developed after first Impressionists. • Extension and rejection of Impressionism’s limitations • triviality of subject matter • loss of structure • Some artists used bolder, more distinct lines. • Some artists used even bolder colors. • Artists: Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, Henri Rousseau, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and others.
Neo-Impressionism • Founded by Georges Seurat (late 19th c.). • Focused on urban scenes, landscapes, and seashores. • Science-based interpretation of lines and colors: pointillism technique. • Artists: Paul Signac, Anna Boch, Henri Edmond Cross, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Willy Finch, Georges Lemmen, Maximilien Luce and others.
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood • London, 1848. • Secret society of seven young poets, artists, and critics (colleagues at Royal Academy of Art). • Purpose: create a new British art. • Rejected academy art; reaction against Neo-classicism. • Emulated art from late medieval and early Renaissance Europe. • Reaction against political upheaval, mass industrialization, and social problems of the time. • Message of artistic renewal and moral reform.
The Brotherhood • Founders: William Holman Hunt (painter), John Everett Millais (painter and illustrator), and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (painter, illustrator, poet, translator). • William Michael Rossetti (writer and critic), James Collinson (painter), Frederick George Stephens (art critic), and Thomas Woolner (sculptor and poet) joined brotherhood with three founders.
Pre-Raphaelite Style • Attention to detail. • Luminous, bright color. • Symbolic. • Lack of shadow; flattened forms. • Truthful depiction of nature.
Subjects • Noble, religious, and moralistic subjects. • Depicted ideas of justice, piety, family relationships, struggle against corruption. • Depicted scenes from poetry (Dante’s Divine Comedy) and medieval legends (Legend of King Arthur); allegorical themes (The Wheel of Fortune); portrayals of female vice and virtue.