Impressionism

Oarsmen at Chatou Auguste Renoir, Oarsmen at Chatou, 1879, 1951.5.2

The Salon continued to exert influence over artistic production by determining whose works were exhibited, thereby confering prestige and publicity. Frustration over refused submissions led a group including Claude Monet, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley to organize the Société anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc., a cooperative for artists of all kinds to exhibit independently. Between 1874 and 1886 the group organized eight independent Salons, establishing a place for avant-garde art never before known in France.

These artists, dubbed impressionists, defied the Salon in various ways. For one, they disregarded the jury’s attachment to historical or religious subject matter. Instead, they studied objects and figures from modern life, using domestic interiors as well as landscape vistas as stimulation. Family members and friends were painted with heightened energy and dynamism. Sparkling scenes of enjoyment and leisure became backdrops for studies of sunlight and its resplendent effects on different surfaces. Painters sought to convey direct visual experiences and translate passing optical impressions into lasting aesthetic statements. The evenly painted surfaces historically praised by the Salon gave way to textured canvases, marked by dabs, wipes and smears. Monet’s sustained interest in conveying the magic of light led him later in his career to paint in series, catching objects and structures, such as the Rouen Cathedral and the Waterloo Bridge in London, at different times of day.

Mademoiselle Malo Little Girl in a Blue Armchair The Bridge at Argenteuil A Girl with a Watering Can Rouen Cathedral, West Façade, Sunlight