Tuesday, 14 July 2015



The early beginnings of the impressionist movement can be traced to four friends that were painting around Paris in the mid 1800s, Renoir, Pissarro, Bazille and Monet. The four paintings above show the type of work that they were creating before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian war. This was before they were THE IMPRESSIONISTS, before the first exhibition and before any of them had perfected the styles they became famous for.

Little known facts ...

Pierre-August Renoir trained as a porcelain painter, which shows in his tiny brush strokes. Just think your granny may own a plate painted by him.

La Grenouillère, by Auguste Renoir 1869
Monet started life as a cartoonist and earned enough to buy his parents a house. He was 86 when he passed away which was a grand old age for the time and outlived them all. Seeing these two paintings together you can see the genius of Monet working with light and shadow. Those yellow trees silhouetting the people on the little island and the turquoise ripples are mesmerizing.

La Grenouillère by Claude Monet 1869
Camille Pissarro was a Jew. He was born on the Island of St Thomas, which at the time was Danish, but is now part of the US Virgin Islands.

The Road to Versailles by Camille Pissarro 1869

Frederik Bazille was from a wealthy family. He was nearly 7 ft tall. He fought in the Franco Prussian War and died during the conflict.

Summer Scene by Frederik Bazille 1869
During the Franco Prussian war 1870 - 1872, Monet and Pissarro, took their families to London, England. There they continued to paint and toured the galleries, studying the art which had been created outside the French "Salon" system. Art in England was governed by "The Royal Society", but it wasn't as limiting as the French equivalent. On these gallery trips, they must have seen the light filled, emotive paintings of Turner and the grand Landscapes of painters like Constable.

On his return to France, Pissarro discovered that his home had been requisitioned as a stable during the war and all his early paintings were scattered around the muddy yard to keep the horses feet dry. Disillusioned Pissarro moved to Pontoise, to start again.

Prior to the war, the now deceased Bazille, had proposed forming a group of artists working outside the Salon system. Pissarro thought now was the perfect time to form the group. During the winter of 1873/4, Pissarro working with Renoir and Monet gathering a group of 15 like minded artists and founded the "Société Anonyme des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc.".

The first event of the society was an exhibition that spring. The space was donated by photographer Nadar on the busy Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. The core members invited their friends to exhibit as well and the first exhibition opened 15th April 1874. Thirty artists participated and 165 paintings were on show. No photos survive of the event, but we know that the walls were the fashionable crimson and Renoir, democratically arranged the paintings in two rows, large ones above and smaller ones below. This was quite different from the rigid structure of placement in the Salon exhibition.

I will be researching all the paintings and talking about them in a series of blogs to follow.

by Sea Dean
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