The Impressionists


It was Edouard Manet (1832-83) who formed the link between Courbet and the painters known as the Impressionists. (Gustave Courbet (1819-77) had a passion for realism but he didnt care about the values of the academic schools). Like Courbet, Manet was intended for a career in law, but took up painting instead. Manet saw very clearly how in real life one colour faded into another. Like Goya, he realized that there are no lines in Nature. Another saying of his, which links him to the Impressionists, was, The principal person in a picture is the light.

The Impressionist movement was born at an exhibition in Paris in 1863. Manet, along with Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Pierre Renoir (1841-1919) had been refused permission to show his paintings in the Salon exhibition. Because the artists protested so loudly, the emperor Napoleon III heard about it and insisted that they should be allowed to exhibit in another room. This became known as the Salon des Refusés, meaning the Hall of the Rejected. The name Impressionist was coined by a critic who jeered at a painting by Claude Monet in this exhibition called Impression, Sunrise. However, what started as a term of derision came to be used to describe the painters aims.

It is difficult now to see why people were so outraged by the Impressionists. All through history, just as people have got used to one kind of art, artists have infuriated them by starting something quite different, and so it was with the Impressionists. In their case, they were working on the principle of simultaneous vision. Its known that in an academic picture there is a different focus for every detail, while in an impressionist picture there is only one focus throughout. These two methods of painting represent different ways of looking at the world; the Academician looks particularly at a series of objects, the Impressionist looks generally at the whole. Use of this principle was not entirely new Velasquez had moved towards it in his later paintings. What was quite new, however, was the palette of colour used by the Impressionists.

The scientist Michel Chevreul (1786-1889) had written a book called The Laws of Simultaneous Contrast of Colours. This book made it clear that colour was not unchanging, but was affected by atmospheric light. If the light changed in the course of the day, every colour in nature, would seem to change as a result. Chevreul pointed out, too, that shadow was not just black or grey, but depended on the colour of the object casting the shadow. He also wrote that the more colour is mixed, the more it loses its brilliancy, and that light destroys colour. Manet had been quite right to say the principal person in a picture is the light.

Monet, Renoir, and Edgar Degas (1834-1917) experimented with colour and light, too, but it was Georges Seurat (1859-91) who reduced it all to almost a scientific formula. He applied his paint in small, roundish dots, each with a very exact colour relationship to the other.

Thus, in the Impressionists palette all the colours act and react each other, so violet may be a main colour while a green or a yellow colour appears in the shadow. In shadows there always appears the complementary colour of the light.

For centuries all painting had been based on three primary colours: red, blue and yellow, then they discarded black altogether, the darkest colour was indigo, dark green or a deep violet.

Some characteristic features of Impressionism are the following: pure colours in minute touches to the canvas; juxtaposed touches of pure colours to render the shadow which at a certain distance fuse in the eye of the beholder and produce the effect of the tint desired. This device is known as optical mixture

The two great principles Impressionist painting is based on are:

1) the substitution of a simultaneous vision that sees a scene as a whole in place of consecutive vision that sees nature piece by piece.

2) the substitution of a chiaroscuro based on the colours of the solar spectrum for a chiaroscuro based on black and white.

The most famous representatives of this trend are Pissaro, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh.


V. Answer the following questions:

1) When was the Impressionist movement born?

2) What incident was connected with the beginning of the Impressionist movement?

3) How was the term Impressionism coined?

4) What was M.Chevreuls contribution to the theory of painting?

5) What are the main differences between an impressionist picture and an academic one?

6) What are the essential peculiarities of an impressionist palette?

7) What are the characteristic features of an impressionist technique?

8) What are the main principles of Impressionism?

9) What Impressionists (and pictures of this trend) do you know?


VI. Explain the following statements:

1) There are no lines in Nature.

2) The principal person in a picture is the light.

3) Colour is affected by atmospheric light.

VII. Give a talk on realism/expressionism/surrealism/naturalism/cubism, etc.


Read and translate Text II.

Botticelli and His The Birth of Venus


Botticelli is one of the great poetic painters sensitive, withdrawn from the world, interested in the expression of a delicate and exquisite feeling unmatched in his or almost any time. Botticellis work is gentle, lyrical, poetic style worked out with flat picture surfaces and decorative flowing linear effects. Emotionally it is never brutal or overpowering, but different, reserved. The Birth of Venus is the poet-painters evocation of the goddess of love out of the sea. In a remote and self-absorbed way, she stands on a cockleshell, brown shoreward by breezes represented on the left. The semicircular composition is completed by the woman on the right who eagerly waits to receive the nude goddess. In spite of this arrangement the picture is not balanced in the monumental manners: it is rather a series of twisting turning lines and forms. The painter is not interested in stressing the three-dimensional or sculptural quality, but rather in looking emotional effects through the restlessness of outline and mood.

The movement begins with the intertwined forms of the breezes as they fly toward the right, their draperies blowing wildly and wings tensely arched. It continues with the deliberately off-centered Venus and her curling, snake-like hair. Finally it ends in the forward-moving, draped woman and the sinuously curved covering she holds ready for the goddess. The eye of the spectator follows the restless curving lines and constantly changing movement from one side to the other and from top to bottom. Although Venus is the central figure, the artist has placed her far enough to the right to lead us in that direction. Nor is she the dramatic centre of the work, for the energetic breezes and the eager young woman at the right are just as significant.


VIII. Reread the text making up a list of words and cliches which may come handy in speaking about painting.


IX. Tell what genres of painting would choose the following as their objects.

1) The face of a boy.

2) Apples, oranges, pears, tumblers, a jug.

3) A roasted turkey on a dish.

4) A group of sportsmen at a stadium.

5) A lake and a hill covered with woods.

6) A busy street.

7) Three hunters in the field telling each other stories.

8) High seas.

X. Answer the questions and fulfill the tasks:

1) All great art is believed to be thought-provoking. How do you understand this statement? Give examples of pictures which you consider to be thought-provoking.

2) Try to state a genre of the picture The Birth of Venus. What is its subject?

3) In the text above find sentences which, in your opinion, stress the essential aspects of the picture.

4) What is the difference between a really good painted portrait and a coloured photograph? Sometimes people say looking at the picture: Its like a coloured photograph. What exactly do they mean? Is it praise or criticism? Explain your point of view.

5) How do you understand the words a study of human nature said about a portrait?

6) Using a reproduction of a portrait give a talk on it showing that it is a study of human nature (if it is). Through what technical devices does the painter expose the sitters inner qualities?

7) Give a talk on a reproduction of a landscape. Is it just a view or is there a deeper meaning in it? What are the educational and ethical values of this genre of painting?

8) Give a talk on a reproduction of a genre painting. Dwell on the subject, the technical aspect and on the implications if possible. Prove that the picture is thought-provoking.

9) Find a reproduction of any genre (still life, marine, landscape, portrait, etc.) and criticize it using the topical vocabulary.


XI. Give a talk on your favourite genre of painting offering good reasons for your preference.


XII. Study the reference-list of artists. Choose one to make a report about his life and work (or tell about your favourite artist).

Cezanne, Paul [sew¢zæn] (1839-1906), a prominent French artist
Constable, John [¢kÙnstcbl] (1776-1837), a famous English landscapist, representing the realistic school of painting.
Delacroix, Eugene [dela:k¢wa:] (1798-1863), an outstanding French painter, representing the romantic trend in art.
Goya [¢g]ja:] (1746-1828), a world-famous Spanish painter and engraver.
Leonardo da Vinci [7lw:c¢na:dou da: ¢vwnw] (1452-1519), a great Italian artist and scientist of the Renaissance (Monna Liza, Madonna Litta, Last Supper, etc.)
Michelangelo [7mawkcl¢ænwlou] (1475-1564), a great Italian sculptor, painter, architect and poet of the Renaissance (David, Bacchus...)
Monet, Claude [¢kl]:d m]u¢new] (1840-1926), an outstanding French artist, leader of impressionists.
Raphael [¢ræfewcl] (1483-1520), a great Italian painter of the Renaissance.
Rembrandt [¢rembrænt] (1606-1669), a great Dutch painter and drawer.
Rubens [¢ru:bwnz] (1557-1640), a great Flemish painter.
Titian [ ¢tw•cn] (1477-1576), a great Italian painter, a representative of the Venice school.
Turner, J.M.W. [¢tc:nc] (1775-1851), a renowned English lanscapist.
Van Gogh [va:n ¢g]:g] (1853-1890), a Dutch painter. Lived in France for a long time.
Velasques [vw¢læskwwz] (1559-1660), a Spanish painter, one of the greatest realists in the history of painting.
Pissaro [pwsa:¢rou] (1831-1903), a French painter, one of the leading masters of the Impressionist trend.
Courbet [ku:r¢be] (1819-1877), a French painter.



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