The origins of impressionism arguably can be traced to England. The works of JMW Turner, John Constable and Thomas Cole who pioneered a new form of painting with natural light and freer brushwork. Across in France this was further propagated and extended by Delacroix and then the Barbizon School. Later painters such as Auguste Ravier, Eugene Boudin and Paul Guigou again further pioneered these new concepts in art. These painters take us to a cataclysmic event in art history. The birth of Impressionist paintings.
The term impressionism was coined by the art critic Louis Leroy. In 1873 when he derided the works of the pioneering group of impressionists that put together their own exhibition away from the traditional Paris Salon. Leroy noted that he had an “impression” from these paintings. The impression was that they were less well finished than a blank piece of wallpaper!
The backstory to this began 10 years earlier when Monet and Manet had works regularly rejected by the Paris Salon. They suffered harsh critique and after Napoleon III saw their submissions of 1863. He agreed to have a separate exhibition titled the Salon Des Refuses for such paintings. The idea was for people to come to ridicule them. Yet they had many admirers and more visitors attended than the regular Salon. Such was the success that the painters petitioned for 10 years for another Salon of refused works but were always denied.
What began as a joke soon became noted as a new movement in art. A rejection of classical lines and colour and traditional brushwork and an embracing of free movement, light and colour and a perspective that was often akin to the norm.
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By 1873 a group of painters including Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley , Cezanne and Morisot amongst others set up their own exhibition under the title Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs. It was after this 1st exhibition that Leroy coined his phrase Impressionist and the painters themselves liked it. Despite the fact it was meant in a derogatory way they adopted it as their own.
And so Impressionism was born. The Societe continued to exhibit in group exhibitions from 1874 until 1886. With a shifting group of artist participating across eight separate exhibitions in that period. New painters came and others left but the artists who participated can certainly be called the true impressionists and pioneers of their day.
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More on Art Post-Impressionism.