Tag Archives: Impressionism

Edgar Degas

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Edgar Degas

The French painter and sculptor Edgar Degas (1834-1917) is considered one of the founders of the Impressionist movement.

The Ballet Class by Edgar Degas

His father expected him to study law, for which Edgar had no enthusiasm. He dropped out of law school to enroll in the École des Beaux-Arts. He intended to become a historical artist, and studied the classical techniques.

Dancers at the Barre pastel by Edgar Degas

Degas enjoyed going to the Louvre and copying the work of the masters. It was there that he is said to have met Édouard Manet, one of his influences. Soon he gave up painting historical scenes in favor of depictions of contemporary life. In 1868 painted his first painting with a ballet theme, a subject with which he will forever be identified.

Ballet Rehearsal by Edgar Degas
Ballet Rehearsal by Edgar Degas

In 1872 he visited relatives in New Orleans, and while there produced a number of paintings, including A Cotton Office in New Orleans.

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A Cotton Office in New Orleans by Edgar Degas

Degas was an organizer of the Impressionist Exhibitions, eight art shows from 1874-1886 that showcased artists who were eschewed by the French Academy Salon. By then he was friends with a number of the Impressionists, including Mary Cassatt, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cezanne, and Édouard Manet, although he hated painting outdoors and considered himself a realist.

Dancer Taking a Bow by Edgar Degas

Perhaps one of his most famous works is his sculpture The Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, which critics proclaimed ugly. I’ve loved that statue since I first saw a picture of it when I was a freshman in high school.

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas

Claude Monet

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Claude Monet (France, November 14, 1840—December 5, 1926) is remembered as the founder of the Impressionist school of painting. In fact, the name of the movement was taken from one of his early paintings, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise).

Impression, soleil levant, by Claude Monet

He always wanted to be an artist. As a boy, he drew charcoal caricatures, which he sold for ten or twenty francs each. His mother, a singer, supported his artistic dreams. His father wanted him to take over the family business, selling groceries and shipping supplies.

Water lilies, by Claude Monet

An early influence was Eugéne Boudin, whom he met on the beaches of Normandy, and who mentored him in oils and plein air (outdoor painting) techniques. While other young painters copied works of the masters, Monet preferred to work directly from subjects. He was particularly interested in how changes of light affected how things appeared. He often painted the same scenes multiple times, in different seasons and at different times of day, to catalog how the differing light affected the colors.

Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge by Claude Monet

The traditional way that painting was taught in France in his day did not appeal to Monet. He preferred to dab the paint on, placing different colors next to each other, allowing the eye to blend them rather than blending them on the palette. He and his friends (among them the likes of Manet, Renoir, Degas, Pizarro, and Cézanne) broke with the Salon de Paris and put on their own exhibitions.

Weeping Willow, by Claude Monet

Monet married his first wife, Camille, in 1870. She was the subject of several of his paintings, and they had two sons together. She died in 1878. A friend’s estranged wife, Alice, helped him raise his children along with her six.

Camille Monet on a Garden Bench, by Claude Monet

In 1883 Monet rented a property on two acres in Giverny. He and his extended family improved the gardens, and Monet did some of his best painting there. His dealer was very successful selling his paintings, and Monet bought the property in 1890. When Alice’s husband passed away, Monet married her.

The Cliffs at Etretat by Claude Monet

Click here to see Claude Monet in action.

I is for Impressionism

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I is for Impressionism

Impressionism was born in Paris in the early 1860s. It was a reaction against the realistic painting style of the time, which was almost photographic in quality, with a smooth texture, focused on details.

It could be said the Impressionists offered a new kind of realism. They took to the outdoors to paint, instead of making a sketch and bringing it back to the studio as a reference for a painting. This necessitated a different, quicker technique, where the texture of the brush strokes became part of the finished picture, and paint wasn’t allowed to dry before additional layers were applied.

Impressionist paintings are full of vivid color and light, even in the background.

Some leading Impressionists were Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Pierre-August Renoit.

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In the Box by Mary Cassatt

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Dancer Taking a Bow by Edgar Degas

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Boating by Edouard Manet

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Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge by Claude Monet

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Hay Harvest at Eragny by Camille Pissarro

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Two Sisters on the Terrace by Pierre-August Renoir

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