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


'Les Japonais'

But exotic artefacts had begun to appear in Paris much earlier. Monet claimed that he bought his first Japanese prints from ships in Le Havre in 1856; and by the 1860s Baudelaire, Whistler, Bracquemond, Zola and Manet were patronizing shops such as La Porte Chinoise and L'Empire Chinoise, which were selling oriental bric-a-brac, including contemporary prints. At the
Universal Exhibition of 1867 the vogue for things Oriental was given added impetus by the participation of Japan, which had been opened up to international commerce thirteen years earlier by the American warships of Commodore Perry. The impact of the prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige on Manet was immediately apparent - both in his graphic work and in paintings such as Olympia, which
possessed geisha-like undertones. In fact, the influence of Japanese art soon permeated the whole movement to such an extent that, before they were known as the Impressionists, the group of painters working in the Batignolles area and acknowledging the leadership of Manet were sometimes referred to as 'les Japonais'.

Official Patronage

The Impressionists lived in a city remarkable for the wealth and accessibility of its art, and this was constantly being added to. In 1879, for example, the creation of the Musee des Monuments Francais gathered together in one place the treasures of medieval France, and in 1890 the house of the Duchesse de Galliera was converted into the Musee des Arts Decoratifs.
Nor was contemporary art neglected. When in 1818 the famous series of paintings of Marie de Medicis by Rubens in the Luxembourg Palace was moved to the Louvre, it was decided that the Luxembourg should be devoted to contemporary French paintings acquired by the Government, mostly from the annual Salon — then if they became famous enough, they would be transferred from the Luxembourg to the Louvre five years after the artist's death. This honour was highly regarded by some though others, such as Degas, were contemptuous of it, and it could provoke controversy. When part of the Caillebotte bequest was finally accepted by the State, a great deal of hostility was aroused among the more conservative elements of the art world, who viewed official recognition of the Impressionists as the final surrender to artistic anarchy. There was a similar scandal when in 1907, thanks to Monet exerting pressure on Clemenceau, Manet's Olympia was transferred from the Luxembourg to the Louvre, where it was hung next to Ingres' Grande Odalisque.
The first work in any way connected with Impressionism to be acquired by the State was Eva Gonzales' The Little Soldier, painted in 1870, which was purchased at the Salon of that year largely because her father had friends in high places. But the fact that a painting was bought by the State did not necessarily mean it would be hung in the Luxembourg - and after its official acquisition The Little Soldier was almost immediately consigned to the mairie of Villeneuve-sur-Lot, where it languished in a cellar until it was rescued from obscurity in 1960.
Official patronage was often wasted on mediocre academic paintings and until well into the twentieth century the Impressionists received precious little of it, though it did exist on a generous enough scale. In 1885 it was estimated that the value of the works of art owned by the Municipality- of Paris was more than 12,000,000 francs, while those belonging to churches and other institutions were worth a further 8,000,000 francs.

Apprenticeship for Art

The glory of Paris was of course the Louvre, and echoes of its masterpieces reverberate throughout the works of the Impressionists, who found it a marvellous source of learning and inspiration. As Renoir observed, 'It is in the museum that one must learn to paint. One must make the paintings of one's own time, but it is there in the museum that one develops the taste for painting, which nature alone cannot provide.' Permission to copy works in the museum's galleries was relatively easy to obtain. Applicants had to have a card signed by some reliable person, preferably connected with the art establishment. Manet — who was to be one of the most assiduous frequenters of the Louvre, copying works by Delacroix, Titian, Tintoretto and Velazquez — was sponsored by his teacher, the academician Thomas Couture. Renoir's first card, issued in January' 1860, was signed by Abel Terral, a picture restorer in the Musee de Versailles; and the following year he received permission to work in the Print Department of the Bibliotheque Imperiale on the strength of a recommendation from his teacher, Charles Gleyre. Degas had received permission to copy works in the Louvre seven years earlier, on the grounds that he was a pupil at the Lycee Louis le Grand and had taken the degree of Bachelor of Letters. He was to continue working in the museum for the next thirty years, copying works by painters such as Delacroix, Giorgione, Holbein, Mantegna, Poussin and Sebastiano del Piombo.
There were many ways of becoming an artist in Paris, but all of them involved working in the Louvre, usually under the tuition of an established artist to whose atelier, or studio, one became in effect apprenticed a relationship basically not very different from the master-apprentice relationship that had operated since the Middle Ages. The stages preliminary to this could be various, as is amply illustrated by the diversity of Renoir's early career. After attending a Christian Brothers' school, where he
was taught the rudiments of drawing, at the age of 13 he was apprenticed to a firm of porcelain painters, Levy Freres et Compagnie, whose workshops were near the Louvre. At the same time, he took drawing lessons from the sculptor Callouette, who was Director of the Ecole Gratuite de Dessin in the 3rd arrondissement. After serving his apprenticeship as a porcelain painter, he worked for a M. Gilbert, who described himself as a manufacturer of'blinds of all sorts', including 'monumental and artistic blinds', blinds for steamboats, and 'perfect imitation stained glass' for churches. Then in 1860 he enrolled as a student of Charles Gleyrc.

The Atelier System

Gleyre's studio was one of many run by well-known painters, and in the course of his teaching career, which began when he took over the studio of Paul Delaroche in 1843, he taught some six hundred pupils, including Bazille, Monet, Renoir, Sisley and Whistler. Considered something of an eccentric, he emphasized the importance of originality. Indeed Bazille commented that, thanks to Gleyre's teaching, 'I shall at least be able to boast that I have not copied anybody.'
Students drew and painted from life (usually a male model one week, female the next;, and the model would be posed by the leading student, known as the massier, who was responsible for the finances and management of the studio too. In addition, the students had to copy drawings, engravings and paintings by Old Masters, either directly in the Louvre or from reproductions. There were normally about thirty students in Gleyre's studio, but the fees were very low (only 10 francs a month), which may explain why in 1864 Gleyre found himself in serious financial difficulties and had to close the studio.








Exotic Infliences


Durand-Ruel's gallery on Fifth Abenue, New York


Other Events

-James Ensor paints "The Entrance of Christ
into Brussels"

A number of the younger generation of artists begin to widen their horizons, many looking to Japanese art, which is becoming increasingly popular through exhibitions held in Paris. Gauguin embarks upon a pilgrimage in search of the exotic, travelling as far as the Caribbean.


Portrait of Vincent van Gogh


Le Pont de Courbevoie


The Bathers





Durand-Ruel Opens in

New York


Durand-Ruel's gallery on Fifth Abenue, New York


Other Events

Serusier, Denis, Bonnard and Ranson /founders of the Nabis group/ begin to work together

Rodin completes "The Burghers of Calais"

-Adolfo Venturi launches "Archivio Storico dell'Arte"

The growing vogue for Impressionist, painting in America, a country without the prejudices of the French academic tradition, gives Durand-Ruel the courage to open a gallery in New York. Cassatt helps foster the popularity of Impressionism in the USA by nurturing the enthusiasm of American friends such as Henry and Louisine Havemeyer.


Sailing Boats at Argenteuil


The exterior of Durand-Ruel's
gallery on Fifth Avenue,
New York.


Fishing Boats on the Beach

The Little Girl from Nice




Smaller Groupings



Other Events
-Albert Aurier launches "Le Moderniste illustre"
-Sickert becomes art critic of "New York Herald"
Vuillard and Ranson join the Nabis

Clusters of Impressionist artists exhibit along with non-Impressionists: Pissarro and Bracquemond with Redon; Monet with Rodin. Works by Cezanne, Manet, Monet and Pissarro are shown at the Centennial Exhibition of French Art, but Degas and Renoir stand aloof.


The Washer-Women

The Schuffnecker Family





Accepted by the State


Vincent Van Gogh dies /1853-1890/


Vincent van

(b Zundert, 30 March 1853; d Auvers-sur-Oise, 29 July 1890).
Dutch painter. His life and work are legendary in the history of 19th- and 20th-century art. In the popular view, van Gogh has become the prototype of the misunderstood, tormented artist, who sold only one work in his lifetime—but whose Irises (sold New York, Sotheby’s, 11 Nov 1987) achieved a record auction sale price of £49 million. Romantic clichés suggest that van Gogh paid with insanity for his genius, which was understood only by his supportive brother Theo (1857–91). Van Gogh was active as an artist for only ten years, during which time he produced some 1000 watercolours, drawings and sketches and about 1250 paintings ranging from a dark, Realist style to an intense, expressionistic one. Almost more than on his oeuvre, his fame has been based on the extensive, diary-like correspondence he maintained, in particular with his brother.


A card from Theo van Gogh announcing Vincent's death on July 29th, 1890


Other Events
Odilon Redon  illustrates Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du mal"
-Musee des Arts Decoratifs opens in Paris
-First exhibition of Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts
-"La gravure Japonaise" exhibition at Ecole des Beaux-Arts
-"The London Impressionists" launch "The Whirlwind"


Monet's campaign to buy 'Olympia' culminates in the painting being offered to the State. His motives are threefold: to aid Manet's widow, to win official recognition for Impressionism, and to establish his own position as the leader of the movement.


The Church at Auvers.


Cartoon from the magazine La Vie parisienne
entitled La Belle Olympia au Lowre,
February 22nd, 1890

Portrait of Felix Feneon in Front of an Enamel
of a Rhythmic Background of Measures and Angles,
Shades and Colours


Charing Cross Bridge, London


Having accumulated 19,415 francs for the purchase of Manet's Olympia for the nation, on February 7th Monet wrote a letter to Armand Fallieres, the Minister of Fine Arts, that reveals the extent to which he was using a basically philanthropic gesture, intended to aid Manet's widow, in order to boost Impressionism and, indirectly, his own standing in the movement.
Monet was clearly apprehensive that the State would accept Olympia and then relegate it to some obscure provincial museum. He therefore not only had the letter published in Le Figaro but also returned the agreement to the Minister when he discovered that a clause placing the picture in the Luxembourg had been omitted. Eventually Olympia was hung in the Luxembourg where it remained for seventeen years, before being moved to the Louvre in 1907.


Monsieur le Ministre,
In the name of the group of subscribers below, I have the honour of offering the State 'Olympia' by Edouard Manet.
We come to you as representatives and spokespersons of a large number of artists, writers and art lovers who have recognized for a long time now how considerable a place this painter, prematurely taken from his art and his country, should occupy in the history of this century. The discussions that swirled around Manet's paintings and the hostilities that they provoked have now subsided. The struggle will go on against those people who are less convinced than we of the importance of Manet's osuvre and his definitive triumph. However, we need only recall figures once decried and rejected such as Delacroix, Corot, Courbet and Millet, to cite only a few names who suffered anonymity at the beginning of their careers only to enjoy incontestable posthumous fame, figures who are today celebrities.
But the vast majority of those people who concern themselves with French painting believe that Edouard Manet's role was effective and decisive. Not only did he play a large part individually; he was the representative of a great and rich evolution as well.
It seems to us inconceivable that such a work as the 'Olympia' should not have its place in our national collections; that the master is not represented where his disciples already reside. In addition, we have been concerned about the incessant movement of the market, the extraordinary purchase of works from us by the Americans, the easily predicted departure for another continent of so many works of art that are the joy and glory of France. We have wanted to retain one of Edouard Manet's most characteristic canvases, one in which he appeared victorious in the fight, master of his vision and of his craft.
It is the 'Olympia' that we put back in your hands, Monsieur le Ministre. Our desire to see it take its place in the Louvre, in its time, among the productions of the French school. If regulations bar its immediate entry, if it is objected, despite the precedent of Courbet, that a period of ten years has not elapsed since Manet's death, then we believe the Musee du Luxembourg is perfectly appropriate to receive the 'Olympia' and keep it until the appointed time. We trust that you will want to give your approval to the work with which we are associated, with the satisfaction of having accomplished what is simply an act of justice.





Success of Monet's



Seurat Georges dies /1859-1891/


Georges Seurat

(b Paris, 2 Dec 1859; d Paris, 29 March 1891).
French painter and draughtsman. In his short career as a mature artist (c. 1882–91), he produced highly sophisticated drawings and invented the Divisionist technique of painting known as POINTILLISM, which was taken up by many of his contemporaries associated with Neo-Impressionism. His application of scientific principles to painting and his stress on the surface quality of his work have had lasting effects on 20th-century art.


Other Events
Gauguin arrives in Tahiti
-The Natansons launch "La Revue blanche"
-"Natura ed Arte" launched in Milan
-Jongkind, Meissonier and Theo van Gogh die

Monet exhibits fifteen paintings from his 'Haystacks' series at Durand-Ruel's gallery in Paris and the exhibition meets with astonishing success. Within three days of opening all have been sold, but even this triumph does not stop the artist from selling his work privately.


The Circus

Poplars on the Epte




Monet's Series Paintings



Other Events
Leighton paints "The Garden of the Hesperides"
-First Rose-Croix exhibition held in Paris
-Munich Secession founded

While the 'Poplars' paintings are being exhibited at Durand-Ruel's Paris gallery, Monet is hard at work on his 'Rouen Cathedral' series, which - canvas by canvas - shows the building's fagade under different effects of light and atmosphere. Meanwhile, the dealer Ambroise Vollard rapidly develops his relationship with the Impressionist artists.


Boats on the Seine at Argenteuil


Kew, the Path to the Main Conservatory


Girls at the Piano

 La Goulue Entering the Moulin Rouge




Degas' Painting Shocks London



Other Events
-Munch paints "The Scream"
-Les Vingt dissolved; replaced by La Libre Esthetique
-Art Nouveau style emerges in Europe

Degas'  "The Absinthe Drinker" causes a furore when exhibited at the Grafton Galleries in London and is derided for the 'ugly', 'depraved' and 'boozy' appearance of the figures depicted. In France, the Impressionists were drifting apart - physically as well as temperamentally. Sisley had forsworn Paris altogether; Renoir was spending more time in the south; Cezanne had settled permanently in Aix-en-Provence; and Monet's heart was in Giverny, although he visited Paris from time to time.


Portrait of Madame de Gortzikoff


Bather Arranging her Hair


Renoir once said: 'The simplest subjects arc eternal. A nude -woman getting out of the briny deep or out of bed, whether she is called Venus or Nini, one can invent nothing better.' During the last two decades of his life a constant stream of nudes poured from his brush - making him one of the essential links in a tradition encompassing Praxitiles, Giorgione, Rubens and Ingres. Apart from early exercises in the genre, such as his Bather with a Griffon (1870), Renoir paid little attention to the nude until the 1880s, partly because the philosophy of Impressionism did not lend itself easily to such 'academic' subjects (being more concerned with contemporary life, which afforded few occasions for undressing in public) and partly because the Impressionist technique tended to lack the precision of outline that such subjects demanded. But Renoir was also deeply ambivalent towards women,and once claimed that he painted women as he would carrots. Moreover, since the Renaissance the nude had been an essential part of an artist's education, and it is significant that those Impressionists who painted nudes - Bazille, Degas, Manet, Renoir and to a lesser extent Cezanne - were basically traditionalists. Nor was it a coincidence that both of the paintings which effectively heralded the advent of Impressionism, Manet's Dejeuner sur l'herbe and Olympia, featured nudes who could be prostitutes, and both were painted in a traditional manner - a formula that allowed the artist to present the 'reality of modern life' under the guise of classical expression.
Degas was particularly aware of the possibilities offered by this formula. Some of his early nude drawings are superb examples of straightforward academic studies. By the 1880s, however, he was exploring what was to become his most characteristic approach to the nude — images of women bathing or washing themselves, far removed from idealized poses or mythological , ^ settings. They were, as the critics put it, 'keyhole pictures' that stripped women of their mystery, showing them as unidealized creatures engaged in mundane activities.
Degas was a lifelong bachelor and it has been suggested that he was impotent — which would partly explain the character of his most extensive excursion into the nude, the fifty monotypes of brothel scenes produced between 1876 and 1877. The images that pervade these works are characterized by an unflattering portrayal of women's bodies and faces and, in some pictures, the frank depiction of pubic areas. Nevertheless, they are a remarkable expression of a conception of the nude that was later to attract Toulouse-Lautrec, and they aroused the admiration of Picasso, who bought four of them in 1958.


Girl with a Greyhound
(Julie Manet)

Included in Morisot's retrospective exhibtion in March, this portrait of her daughter and greyhound
Laertes : a present from Mallarmci was described by Julie Manet in her diary:
'It shows me in the rue Weber drawing room, in front of a Japanese print,
leaning slightly towards Laertes, in front of me.'




The Caillebotte Bequest


Caillebotte Gustave dies /1848-1894/



(b Paris, 18 Aug 1848; d Gennevilliers, nr Paris, 21 Feb 1894).
French painter and collector. Caillebotte’s parents, of Norman descent, were wealthy members of the Parisian upper middle class, and his paintings often evoke his family background. After studying classics at the Lycée Louis Le Grand, he obtained a law degree in 1870, and during the Franco–Prussian War he was drafted into the Seine Garde Mobile (1870–71). He joined Léon Bonnat’s studio in 1872 and passed the entrance examination for the Ecole des Beaux-Arts on 18 March 1873. The records of the Ecole make no mention of his work there, and his attendance seems to have been short-lived. He was very soon attracted by the innovative experiments, against academic teaching, of the young rebels who were to become known as the Impressionists. In 1874 Edgar Degas, whom Caillebotte had met at the house of their mutual friend Giuseppe de Nittis, asked him to take part in the First Impressionist Exhibition at the Nadar Gallery in the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. However, it was only at the time of their second exhibition in April 1876 that, at Auguste Renoir’s invitation, Caillebotte joined the Impressionist group. From then on he was one of the most regular participants in their exhibitions (1877, 1879, 1880, 1882). He organized the show of 1877 and made great efforts to restore the cohesion of the group by persuading Claude Monet to exhibit in 1879. Having inherited a large fortune from his parents, Caillebotte had no need to sell his pictures and could afford to provide crucial financial assistance for his artist friends. He purchased their work, much disparaged at the time, and amassed the famous collection of Impressionist masterpieces that he left to the State.

Other Events
Rodin completes his sculpture of Balzac
-"The Vellow Book" launched in London

The year is dominated by negotiations over the Caillebotte bequest -which, in retrospect, can be seen as the final acceptance of the status of Impressionism in France. That most of the main figures of the movement are now financially secure is a sign of the increased prestige the Impressionists are beginning to enjoy.


Breton Landscape


The Banks of the Seine: Wind Blowing.





Monet Triumphant


Morisot Berthe dies /1841-1895/


Berthe Morisot

(b Bourges, Cher, 14 Jan 1841; d Paris, 2 March 1895).
French painter and printmaker. As the child of upper middle-class parents, Marie-Joséphine-Cornélie and Edme Tiburce Morisot, she was expected to be a skilled amateur artist and was thus given appropriate schooling. In 1857 she attended drawing lessons with Geoffroy-Alphonse Chocarne ( fl 1838–57), but in 1858 she and her sister Edma left to study under Joseph-Benoît Guichard, a pupil of Ingres and Delacroix. In the same year they registered as copyists in the Louvre, copying Veronese and Rubens. The sisters were introduced to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot in 1861 and took advice from him and subsequently from his pupil, Achille-François Oudinot (1820–91). Through these artists they became familiar with current debates on naturalism and began to work en plein air, painting at Pontoise, Normandy and Brittany (e.g. Thatched Cottage in Normandy, 1865; priv. col.).


Other Events
-Siegfried Bing opens a new gallery in Paris named "L'Art Nouveau"
-First Venice Biennale
-Censorship of art exhibitions lifted in Germany
-Steedelijk Museum opens in Amsterdam

Monet enjoys an extremely successful and prolific trip to Norway, producing some twenty-six paintings, including several of Mount Kolsaas. On his return, he has fifty paintings from various series exhibited at Durand-Ruel's Paris gallery. As with the 'Haystacks' exhibition of 1891, the critical response is rapturous.


Red Buoy.


Gabrielle and Jean.


Girl Sewing.

The title page of the catalogue of Mary Cassatt's exhibition.




Morisot's Retrospective


The title page from the retrospective exhibition
of Morisot's works at Durand-Ruel's gallery,
which ran from March 5th to 21st., 1896


Other Events
-Art periodicals "Die Jugend" and
"Simplicissimus"   founded in Munich

In memory of Berthe Monsot, who had died the previous year, the Impressionists organize a retrospective exhibition at Durand-RueVs Paris gallery. Degas, Monet and Renoir hang her canvases, which, with their vibrant colour, loose brushwork and attractive subjects, are widely admired. The show is a considerable success.


The Toilette

The Rooftops of Old Rouen, Grey Weather

The Noble Woman




Sisley's One-Man Show



Other Events
-Max Klinger paints "Christ in Olympus"
Henri Rousseau  paints "The Sleeping Gypsy"
-Corporation of Italian Artists founded
-Vienna Secession founded

This year Sisley finally begins to receive some recognition for his work. Georges Petit holds a one-man show for the artist at his gallery, and he travels to Britain on an all-expenses-paid trip, where he paints some twenty-five canvases. His prices improve too - a painting bought in 1887 for 150 francs sells this year for 2350 francs.


Yvonne and Christine Lerolle Playing the Piano


The Boulevard Montmartre at Night




Embracing Europe


Supplement to Le Gaulois (June 16th, 1898)
reviewing Monet's exhibition at Georges Petit's gallery.

Other Events
-Glasgow School of Art opens in buildings
designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Having participated in a number of international exhibitions, the artists are now enjoying significant prestige in Europe. This year works by Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir and Sisley are included in an exhibition of the International Society of Artists in London, and Durand-Ruel stages Impressionist exhibitions in Munich and Berlin.


The White Horse

The Place du Theatre Francais





Sisley Dies in Poverty


Sisley Alfred  dies /1839-1899/



(b Paris, 30 Oct 1839; d Moret-sur-Loing, nr Paris, 29 Jan 1899).

British painter, active in France. Although overshadowed in his lifetime by Monet and Renoir, Sisley remains a quintessential representative of the Impressionist movement. He was almost exclusively a painter of landscape.


Other Events
-Vollard publishes albums of colour lithographs
Denis, Bonnard and Vuillard
-Berlin Secession founded

The death of Sisley at the beginning of the year leaves his family in a state of crippling penury, and Monet — always quick to take up a cause — organizes a sale of his paintings at Georges Petit's gallery, which realizes the respectable sum of 115,640francs. Sisley's clothes and furniture are also sold, and fetch 50 francs and 950 francs respectively.


Deux femmes Tahitiennes

The Tuileries Gardens in Rain


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