National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

The Impressionists at Argenteuil


Exhibition Brochure | Brochure Images | Related Information
Introduction | Impressionism | Group Exhibitions | The Paris Suburbs | Impressions of Nature
Impressionist Techniques | Landscapes of Modernity | Leisure | Group Dynamics

Impressions of Nature
Fig 1 In their depictions of the natural world the impressionists focused on ephemeral qualities such as the nuances of sunlight and shadow. They sought to represent these passing effects as truthfully as possible and, in doing so, to capture the immediacy of experiencing nature at first hand. To this end they adopted the practice of painting outdoors, which enabled them to work from close, direct observation and record their perceptions without delay. A portrait by Renoir presents Monet as the archetypical impressionist: standing at his portable easel en plein air, palette and brushes in one hand, gazing intently at the flowers in the garden while holding his other hand poised before his canvas. Monet also had a studio boat built when he was living in Argenteuil, making it possible for him to paint virtually from the surface of the river and to create compelling pictures that represent the shimmering effects of light on water. The exercise of painting in the open air was not new; for centuries landscape painters had made studies directly from nature. Yet such works were previously regarded merely as preparatory for larger-scale compositions, whereas the impressionists elevated what most of their contemporaries regarded as sketches to the level of finished works of art, worthy of being framed, exhibited, and sold.

Introduction | Impressionism | Group Exhibitions | The Paris Suburbs | Impressions of Nature
Impressionist Techniques | Landscapes of Modernity | Leisure | Group Dynamics