In the world of art, impressionism was my first love. It captivated me; the way the colors run together and seemingly dance in the reflections of light on the paint’s sheen. As a little girl, I was enamored by the beauty and grace of Degas’ ballerinas. I imagined myself on their stage beside them, twirling and twisting through the paintings with each step as effortless as a brushstroke. And Degas wasn’t the only one who captured my heart. Monet, Manet, Morisot, Renoir, Cézanne, Pissarro: they showed me the world in the way in which I wanted to see it. The nuances of fine art always eluded me, but impressionism held me captive.
The more I learned about the impressionists, the more I loved them. My soul seemed to identify with a ragtag group of artist rebels giving a proverbial “eff you” to stuffed-shirt traditionalists. Before impressionism, artists around the world needed enough luck to be chosen for the Salon, an annual exhibition presented by the academie des beaux-arts. Judges for the Salon were often particular and arbitrary, leaving many non-traditional painters disgruntled. In 1874, a group of impressionists created their own exposition in which to display their art. To add insult to injury, they chose to open the display at the same time as the annual exposition. Ouch. They called themselves the Society of Anonymous Painters, Sculptors, and Printers. But by the end of the 19th century, they would be far from anonymous.
People did not take kindly to the messy style in which globs of paint were plopped onto the canvas, creating broad form rather than precise strokes. Taking jabs at the new style, critics called it an “impression” rather than a work of art; however, instead of letting close-minded, pedantic insults get in their way, the painters leaned into it. They embraced the idea of impression in messy style, while completely living it up. The impressionists spent most of their time drinking absinthe, hanging out with dancers and prostitutes, and painting in beautiful gardens. Being outdoors was an essential, working in Plein-Air and using light to play with color and concept.
Arguably the most famous (and also my most favorite) impressionist was Claude Monet. Claude Monet was a true French artist. Born in Paris and raised in Le Havre, he worked as an artist even as a child, selling drawings and paintings as young as eleven. Monet eventually moved back to Paris and drew inspiration from the natural light, the river, and the gardens throughout the city. The critical term “impressionist” actually came from the title of one of Monet’s paintings entitled “Impression: Sunrise.” As Monet continued his work he focused on capturing the changing effects of color with light. He painted with quick, abrupt brushstrokes and used vibrant colors and beautiful pastel palettes. He eventually became one of the most famous impressionist painters in France as the style picked up speed and popularity.
“Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand, as if it were necessary to understand, when it is simply necessary to love.”Claude Monet