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Early Impressionism

By the late 1860s, Monet and some of his contemporaries had developed highly individual styles. They had become exceptionally skilful plein-air painters, often working in each other's company and producing astonishingly vivid and believable 'impressions'.

'They are Impressionists in the sense that they render not the landscape, but the sensation produced by the landscape', explained the critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary in 1874.

Given their determination to render sensation in all its vividness, colour assumed the greatest importance for the Impressionists. In marked contrast to the Barbizon painters, they did not illustrate the fall of light in gradations of light and dark; instead, their painting seems to generate a light of its own.

Monet and his friends did not share a unified programme, but their work has certain features in common: a loosening of formal structures; light, bright colour; spontaneous-looking brushwork; novel approaches to composition; and a feeling of openness and improvisation. Their discovery of Japanese woodblock prints and a general awareness of photography were great influences.

Monet and Camille Pissarro were the principal organisers of the first Impressionist exhibition, held in Paris in 1874, in which 30 exhibitors banded together. It was one of Monet's paintings in this exhibition – Impression: sunrise – that suggested the name for this new style of painting.

Source: Maloon, Terence. Monet and the Impressionists exhibition brochure.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2008

Works in this section

Snow at Argenteuil  c1874, Claude Monet.
Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: bequest of Anna Perkins Rogers

Meadow with poplars  c1875 Claude Monet.
Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: bequest of David P Kimball in memory of his wife Clara Bertram Kimball

Racehorses at Longchamp  1871 (possibly reworked in 1874) Edgar Degas. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: S A Denio Collection – Sylvanus Adams Denio Fund and general income

The pond  c1877–79, Paul Cézanne.
Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Tompkins Collection – Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund

Woman with a parasol and small child on a sunlit hillside  c1874–76, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; bequest of John T Spaulding

Camille Monet and a child in the artist's garden in Argenteuil  1875, Claude Monet.
Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: anonymous gift in memory of Mr and Mrs Edwin S Webster

Pontoise, the road to Gisors in winter  1873, Camille Pissarro.
Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: bequest of John T Spaulding

Waterworks at Marly  c1876, Alfred Sisley.
Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: gift of Miss Olive Simes

In the exhibition

> The triumph of Impressionism: the 1880s
> Impressionism after 1900

 

The Pond  c.1877-79, Paul Cézanne. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Tompkins Collection – Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund. Photograph © MFA, Boston
The pond  c.1877–79, Paul Cézanne.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Tompkins Collection – Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund. Photograph © MFA, Boston
> This artwork on the website of the MFA Boston

Impressions of France

La danse à la campagne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Gift of Sir John Ilott, 1959
In the Ilott Room, Level 4, Impressions of France: French prints 1850–1900 presented a selection of prints from Te Papa's collection, including works by Manet, Renoir, and Pissarro. more>