The Birth of Impressionism

Essay by CmoxeyCollege, UndergraduateA+, July 2006

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Impressionism is a style of art that developed in France in the 1870's. This style of art began when four students of the painter Marc Gleyre started getting together, and questioning the traditional rules of art. These four students were Manet, Renoir, Sisley, and Bazille.

Since 1648 the rules of art had been set by the French Academy of Fine Arts. The Academy did not consider paintings of everyday events to be art. They emphasized paintings that taught ethical or moral lessons through historic, mythological, or Biblical themes. When objects were being painted they often favored idealizing them to be more appealing to the eye. The rules that were accepted by the Academy for style were: symmetrical compositions, hard outlines, and smooth paint surfaces. When the four art students started meeting in cafés to share their ideas of what classifies art as art and why, their group grew to include men like Cezanne, Pissarro, Morisot, Degas, and Monet.

These men did not think art had to have to follow rules to be considered art. They later came up with the conclusion that for a painting to be classified as art it only needed to be painted on top of canvas. The style or subject matter of the painting made no difference.

These artists, who in their own time were known as Independents and would later be known as Impressionist artists, didn't like the idea of having to use your imagination to understand a painting. For example, they did not agree with the Academy rule that if a nude woman was in a painting and was being used as an allegory to represent a muse or idea then it was high art, but just a naked women in a painting that did not represent anything, that was trash and scandalous. The...