The Chronicle of Impressionism






Camille Pissarro


Claude Monet


Edouard Manet


Pierre-Auguste Renoir


 Edgar Degas


Frederic Bazille


Armand Guillaumin


Berthe Morisot


Alfred Sisley


Mary Cassatt


Giuseppe de Nittis


Gustave Caillebotte


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec


Federico Zandomeneghi


Childe Hassam


Peder Severin Kroyer


Max Liebermann






Paul Cezanne


Charles Angrand


Theo Van Rysselberghe


Georges Seurat


Paul Signac


Henri-Edmond Cross


Vincent Van Gogh



The Impressionists' World


Seldom in the history of European painting has a single movement had so profound an impact as Impressionism. Within little more than a century its exponents have become household names in the global village of today, and the prices fetched by their paintings equal and often surpass those of the Old Masters. If a comparison must be found for their achievement it is only with the Renaissance, the period in which Man first believed in a universe that he could order and even control, determining what he saw and expressed not in terms of a transcendental scale of values but by the laws of perspective.
The Impressionists carried the process one step further, liberating art from its dependence on dogma and attempting to paint not what they thought they saw, nor what they thought they ought to see, but what they did see. From this emancipation was to come the art of the twentieth century, in all its varied manifestations.
The Impressionist movement was particularly remarkable in that it was achieved by some twenty artists, all of them familiar with each other, all based in one city, Paris, and all children of their time, the product of a unique cultural environment, which moulded them as much as they influenced it.

Political Allegiances

Between the birth of Pissarro in 1830 and the death of Monet in 1926, France experienced a variety of governments and constitutions; it was involved in two major wars, several minor ones, and a brief civil war that culminated in the brutal crushing of the Commune. It also gained an empire in Africa and the Far East, and was transformed from an agricultural country to a primarily industrial one, the basis of power passing to the predominantly mercantile middle class, which
was becoming larger and more varied.
Nevertheless, despite the privations suffered during the siege of Paris, the horrors of the Commune and its suppression, the fierce passions roused by the Dreyfus affair, and the persistent waves of financial scandal that swept the country, the Impressionists — except for Pissarro, who was a Socialist with strong anarchist leanings — did not show much active political commitment.
Manet, it is true, was what might be described as an upper-class Republican, and his political sensibilities are occasionally evident in his work. His contempt for Napoleon III found poignant expression in his paintings of the execution of the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico - which by showing the firing squad in what looked like French army uniforms suggested, quite rightly, that the whole imbroglio had been brought about by Napoleon's devious policies. Also, out of all the Impressionists. Manet was the only one to leave a record of the horrors of 1871, in the form of a few drawings and lithographs showing scenes from the suppression of the Commune. His criticisms of authority were, however, muted by a desire to be accepted. 'Monsieur Manet has never wished to protest,' he wrote in the preface to the catalogue of his one-man exhibition of 1867, and the fact that he never participated in any of the Impressionist exhibitions seems to have stemmed from a reluctance openly to defy the establishment. Monet too was a Republican, though not a very aggressive one, his sentiments owing something to his friendship with the politician Georges Clemenceau.
Renoir and Degas, on the other hand, were out-and-out reactionaries. 'Education', Renoir once remarked to Julie Manet, 'is the downfall of the working classes.' Both artists strongly believed in the panacea-like benefits of religion, although neither of them were actually practising Christians; they also regarded the inferiority of women as axiomatic; and were blatantly anti-Semitic. As for Cezanne, despite his excitable character and his 'total disregard for the dictionary of manners', once he settled down to provincial life in Aix-en-Provence, the stirrings of youthful rebellion faded, and he became a confirmed conservative and a devout Catholic.

The Artists' Origins

The Impressionists were all either grands or petits bourgeois in origin, and none of them came from the peasantry or the proletariat. The fathers of Manet and Berthe Morisot were from the upper ranks of the judiciary and the civil service, Bazille's from a rich wine-growing family, Degas' from the minor Italian aristocracy and banking. Sisley's
father, until his bankruptcy, was a well-to-do English businessman, settled in Paris; Pissarro's family were rich colonial merchants; and Caillebotte's had made their money in textiles, and augmented it by dabbling in real estate during the redevelopment of Paris in the 1860s. Monet's father and Renoir's — who came from the lower echelon of the bourgeoisie, the one being a merchant, the other a tailor both made enough money to be able to retire to the countryside in their sixties. Cezanne's father, having started his business career as a hatmaker in Aix-en-Provence, developed into banking and became one of the city's most influential citizens.

Patrons and Collectors

Equally obvious were the bourgeois origins of the patronage that the Impressionists received. Although many of the surviving aristocrats were wealthy, few of them — apart from the de Wagrams, who were of inferior Napoleonic nobility, and the Bibescos, who were Romanians - showed the enterprise displayed by the nouveaux riches. The acquisition of a collection of paintings provided the upwardly mobile with a visible symbol of their enhanced social standing; and it was the bourgeoisie and professional classes who imposed their taste on the art of the time.
Among the Impressionists' main patrons and collectors there were doctors such as Gachet and de Bellio; teachers such as the Abbe Gaugain; musicians such as Chabrier and the baritone Jean-Baptiste Faure; and civil servants such as the customs official Victor Chocquet. There were also businessmen such as Ernest Hoschede, the department-store owner whose widow married Monet; Henri Rouart, an enterprising engineer who pioneered refrigeration machinery as well as being a talented painter; Paul Berard, the banker and diplomat at whose house at Wargemont Renoir so frequently stayed; Eugene Aiurer, the restaurateur and hotelier who gave free dinners for the Impressionists during the 1870s; and Francois Depeaux, the Rouen merchant who for a long time virtually supported Sisley.

An Expanding World

One consequence of industrialization was vastly improved transport. Between 1850 and 1900 the railways in France expanded from approximately 3000 kilometres (1850 miles) of track to 13,000 kilometres (8000 miles). When Cezanne first came up to Paris from Aix-en-Provence in 1861, the train journey took three days; when he paid his last visit to the capital in 1893, it took him only a day. The Impressionists were able to travel on a scale unknown to their predecessors. Monet, for example, not only explored and painted various aspects of
the valley of the Seine and the Channel coast but was able to travel to places as diverse as Normandy and Brittany, the Creuse valley, Holland, Norway, Venice and London. The whole of France was now available as a visual playground - places such as Argenteuil, Ghatou and Asnieres that feature so prominently in Impressionist paintings having been made easily accessible by the railways, which themselves became favourite images in the iconography of Manet, Monet and Pissarro. The opening of transalpine tunnels improved access to Italy, and the establishment of regular cross-Atlantic steamer services made it possible for enterprising dealers such as Paul Durand-Ruel to have easy access to the American art market, thus allowing the wealth and initiative of a new generation of collectors in the New World  to redress the aesthetic deficiencies of the old.



Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Paul Durand-Ruel

Paul Durand-Ruel

born October 31, 1831, Paris, France
died February 5, 1922, Paris

in full Paul-Marie-Joseph Durand-Ruel French art dealer who was an early champion of the Barbizonschool artists and the Impressionists.
Durand-Ruel began his career in his father's art gallery, which he inherited in 1865. At the outset he concentrated on buying the work of Barbizon artists—particularly Camille Corot, Charles-François Daubigny, and Jules Dupré—and for many years he was the only dealer to do so. In 1848 he bought every painting by Théodore Rousseau that he could locate; he was unable to sell a single one of them for the next 20 years. He also advanced money to Jean-François Millet, providing his sole support for many years.
In the early 1870s Durand-Ruel met Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro. Though they and the other Impressionists had been denounced by the art establishment and shunned by the buying public, Durand-Ruel courageously bought theirwork and that of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes as well.
In 1886 Durand-Ruel went to New York City to exhibit the works of his painters at the National Academy of Design. The show was so well received that he established a branch of Durand-Ruel in New York City the following year. As a result of his persistence and foresight, he gained a reputation as the principal agent for the success of the Impressionist painters.

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)



Other Events




Art in Revolt

The ornate entrance to the Palais de l'Industrie in the Champs-Elysees,
where the annual exhibition of the Salon was held.


Other Events
-First aerial photographs of Paris taken by Nadar

-First underground railway opens in London
Delacroix dies
Rossetti paints "Beata Beatrix"

Furious at their rejection from the Salon, hundreds of French artists complain to the authorities. As a result, the Emperor orders an exhibition of rejected works, the Salon des Refuses. It is dominated by Manet's
"Dejeuner sur L'herbe", showing a naked woman picnicking in the open with two fully clothed men - to young artists a triumph of Realism, to conservatives a shmeless piece of pornography.



Lola de Valence

Music in the Tuileries Garden


Dejeuner sur L'herbe

The inspiration for this painting [originally entitled Le Bain) came from two sources:
Marcantomo Raimondi's engraving (c.1500) of Raphael's The Judgement of Paris and Titian's Le Concert Champetre,
of which Manet owned a copy.
The man looking out from the painting is based on one of Manet's brothers (or possibly both),
while his companion is the sculptor Ferdinand Leenhoff, brother of Suzanne Leenhoff,
whom Manet married in October.
The nude sitting with them is Victorine Meurcnt — who also posed for Olympia.


I ought not to omit a remarkable picture of the Realist school, a translation of a thought of Giorgione into modern French. Yes, there they are, under the trees, the principal lady entirely undressed, sitting calmly in the well-known attitude oj Gwrgione's Venetian woman; another female in a chemise coming out of a little stream that runs hard by; and two Frenchmen in wide-awakes [broad-brimmed hats] sitting on the very green grass with a stupid look of bliss.
PHILIP HAMERTON, Fine Arts Quarterly Review, June 1863

Unfortunately the nude hasn't a good figure and one can't think of anything uglier than the man stretched out beside her, who hasn't even thought of taking off... his horrid padded cap. It is the contrast of a creature so inappropriate in a pastoral scene with this naked bather that is so shocking.

I see garments without feeling the anatomical structure that supports them and explains their movements. I see boneless fingers and heads without skulls. I see side-whiskers made of two strips of black cloth that could have been glued to the cheeks. What else do I see? The artist's lack of conviction and sincerity. JULES CASTAGNARY, reprinted in Salons, 1892

A commonplace woman of the demi-monde, as naked as possible, shamelessly lolls between two overdressed fops, who look like schoolboys on a holiday doing something naughty to play at being grown-up. I search in vain for any meaning to this unbecoming riddle.
LOUIS ETIENNE, Le Jury et les exposants, 1863






A More Tolerant Salon




Other Events
Gustave  Moreau successfully exhibits "Oedipus and the Sphinx" at the Salon

As a result of complaints about the Salon of 1863, the number of works rejected by the jury drops by 40 per cent. Manet, Morisot, Pissarro and Renoir exhibit; but Monet and Bazille make no submissions, though both are productive, working together in Honfleur. 




The Pink Dress

Racetrack Near Paris






"Olympia" - a Sensation

Works by academic painters purchased by the State at the Salon of 1865.


Other Events
Gustave Dore  illustrates the Bible
-Yale University opens first Department of
Fine Arts in USA

Manet - the "father" of Impressionism - causes a sensation with a painting accepted by the Salon. As with "Dejeuner sur l'herbe" of 1863, the subject (a recumbent Venus) is inspired by a classical precedent, but it has been reinterpreted in a contemporary manner.




Criticism of Manet's Olympia was directed as much against the "ugliness' of the model as against its stylistic novelty.
It is easy to understand the shock provoked by this painting when it is compared with the pictures
by academic painters that were habitually hung in the Salon, with their anonymous faces,
contrived poses and total insulation from contemporary reality.


The sensation provoked by Olympia at the Salon of 1865 was even greater than that which had greeted Dejeuner sur l'herhe - few critics showing the perspicacity of Zola, who in 1867 published the following apostrophe to Manet:

For you a picture is but an opportunity for analysis. You wanted a nude, and you took Olympia, I he first to come along; you wanted bright, luminous patches, and the bouquet provided them; you wanted black patches, and von added a black woman and a black cat. What does all this mean? You hardly know, nor do I. But I know that you succeeded admirably in creating a work of painting, of great painting, and in translating into a special language the verities of light and shade, the realities of persons and things.
 EMILE ZOLA, L'Artiste, January 1st, 1867

More common were sentiments such as the following:

What's this yellow-bellied odalisque, this vile model picked up goodness knows where and representing Olympia?
JULES CLARETIE, L'Artiste, May, 1865

The crowd, as at the morgue, throngs in front of the gamy 'Olympia' and the horrible 'Ecce Homo' of M. Manet.
PAUL DE SAINT-VICTOR, La Presse, May 28th, 1865

'Olympia' can be understood from no point of view, even if you take it for what it is. a puny model stretched out on a sheet. The cnlour of the flesh is dirty, the modelling non-existent. The shadows are indicated by comparatively large smears of blacking. What's to be said for the negress, who brings a bunch of flowers wrapped in some paper, or for the black cat that leaves its dirty pawmarks on the bed? We would still forgive the ugliness were it truthful, carefully studied, heightened by some effect of colour. The least beautiful woman has bones, muscles, skin, heightened by some sort of colour. Here is nothing, we are sorry to say, but the desire to attract attention at any price.
THEOPHILE GAUTIER, Le Moniteur universel, June 24th, 1865







A Defender Appears




Other Events
Winslow Homer paints "Prisoners from
the Front

Emile Zola - a childhood friend of Cezanne - becomes increasingly identified with the future Impressionists, recognizing in their preference for scenes of contemporary life "Realist" tendencies complementary to his own literary aims.
By publicly lending the artists his support, however, he incurs ridicule and hostility from his readers.



Mother Anthony's Inn at Marlotte

Women in the Garden







Personal Exhibition


Cover of one of the many illustrated publications
produced to promote the Universal Exhibition.



Other Events
Millais paints "The Boyhood of Raleigh"
Japanese art exhibited for first time in
West at Universal Exhibition in Paris

Peter von Cornelius, Ingres
Theodore Rousseau  die

Capitalizing on the vast number of people expected to visit the Universal Exhibition, Manet and Courbet each erect a pavilion in the Place de l'Alma, near one of the entrances, in order to display their own work. Despite widespread publicity and the amount of money lavished on the pavilions, both exhibitions are no more than a partial success and neither receive much critical acclaim.


Lise with a Parasol


The Hermitage at Pontoise






The Realist Impulse

This engraving of the Salon of 1868 shows how closely
the exhibits were crowded together.
Large paintings were generally hung above smaller ones.

Other Events
-Eugene Boudin Museum founded in Honfleur, France

Most of the artists have works accepted by the Salon this year. Their submissions vary tremendously in technique and subject matter, being connected only by a shared concern with contemporary life. Renoir's "Lise with a Parasol" — described by one critic as 'the fat woman daubed in white'' — attracts attention because of the freshness of the image and the directness of Renoir's brushwork.



The Balcony


Alfred Sisley and his Wife







Manet Falls Foul

of the Censor



Other Events
-Charles Cros invents colour photography

Manet is fully aware that his decision to paint the execution of Emperor Maximilian - a controversial episode from recent political history - is unlikely to win the approval of the authorities. He therefore is not surprised when the Salon refuses to exhibit it.




The Execution of Emperor Maximilian






Soldiers and Exiles

Frederic Bazille dies /1841-1870/


Frederic Bazille

(b Montpellier, 6 Dec 1841; d Beaune-la-Rolande, 28 Nov 1870).
French painter. The son of a senator, he was born into the wealthy Protestant middle class in Montpellier. He soon came into contact with the contemporary and still controversial painting of Eugène Delacroix and Gustave Courbet through the Montpellier collector, Alfred Bruyas. In response to his family’s wishes he began to study medicine in 1860. He moved to Paris in 1862 and devoted his time increasingly to painting. In November 1862 he entered the studio of Charles Gleyre where he produced academic life drawings (examples in Montpellier, Mus. Fabre) and made friends with the future Impressionists, Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir and Alfred Sisley. When the studio closed in 1863, he did not look for another teacher but followed his friends to Chailly, near the forest of Fontainebleau, where he made studies from nature (e.g. Study of Trees; priv. col.). From 1863 he took an active part in Parisian musical life, attending the Pasdeloup and Conservatoire concerts. He developed a passion for opera (Berlioz and Wagner in particular) and German music (Beethoven and Schumann). He attended the salon of his cousins, the Lejosne family, where Henri Fantin-Latour, Charles Baudelaire, Edmond Maitre, Renoir and Edouard Manet were frequent guests, and at the end of 1863 he met Courbet.


Other Events
-Schliemann begins excavations at Hissarlik, in Turkey, which he believes to be the site of Troy.

Political events - the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war, the proclamation of the Third Republic and the Siege of Paris - greatly affect the lives of the artists.
Manet, Degas and Renoir enlist; Monet and Pissarro flee to England.

Bazille is killed in action, ages 29.



Musicians in the Orchestra

The Road from Versailles at Louveciennes







The "Terror"

of the Commune





Other Events
-Zola starts writing the first of his
"Rougon-Macquart" novels

The Franco-Prussian War is followed by the proclamation of the Commune in Paris. Courbet's first action as President of the Art Commission is to organize the demolition of the Napoleonic column in Place Vendome, but after seventy-two days the Commune is suppressed and Courbet imprisoned.
In London, Durand-Ruel exhibits the works of Monet and Pissarro, and forges a lasting and significant link with the fu5ture Impressionist artists.



The Barricade

Portrait of Edma Pontillon
(nee Morisot)







The Rise of




Other Events
Whistler paints "The Artist's Maother"

Buying in bulk gives the dealer Durant-Ruel the opportunity to purchase works by Degas, Manet, Renoir and Sisley relativery cheaply. This year he also mounts the first exhibitionsw of Impressionist work to be held in London, though these are not a commercial success.



Claude Monet Reading


The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne







Gathering of the

Future Impressionists





Other Events
Corot paints "Souvenir d'Italie"

Despite the fact that an increasing number of the future Impressionists are still working outside Paris, there is a growing sense of common purpose among the artists, which culminates in the formation of the Societe Anonyme des Artistes, the primary aim of which is to mount group exhibitions free from selection by a jury.




Outskirts of Paris




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