French Art – The Impressionists

IMPRESSIONISM —one of those clever but somewhat misleading terms to which the French language lends itself with such readiness—is almost the latest development of French Art. None of the successive artistic movements of the nineteenth century have been subjected to more opposition, ridicule, abuse, and misrepresentation. And with some reason. For of late ” Impressionisin ” has too often signified the daubings of some young person ignorant of the very first principles of drawing or painting, who dares to call himself an ” Impressionist,” because he is too lazy or impatient to submit to the ceaseless training and study that are necessary for the artist ; too ignorant to use his brush or his pencil, and takes to a palette knife instead. It is such as these who bring discredit on the really fine artists who they pretend to admire.

A certain kind of Impressionism in painting is no new thing. We find artists of every period, in every school, in every country, whose work at times has been Impressionist —if by Impressionism we mean the vivid, personal impression of a fugitive effect whether in landscape or figure—an impression of colour, of light, of movement, of emotion—the sudden revelation, gone in a moment, as the breath of the wind across the grass.

The Impression is something more than the sketch. There is no finality about the sketch. It is the suggestion, the step on the way that leads up to some more permanent record ; a delightful step, it is true, which we often find more attractive than the laboriously finished composition, in which the vigour and freshness of the first intention is some-times lost. The Impression in a way is final. It is the permanent record of the fugitive effect. And to produce that permanent record of the effect, the emotion, the movement, which may only last for five minutes—nay, for five seconds —requires far more technical skill, far more sound know-ledge, far more lively imagination, than is needed for many a highly finished and perfectly academic composition, studied day after day from the model.

If the Impressionist—I do not of course speak of the ignorant and impertinent dauber—if the Impressionist is able to produce this effect, he must be master of every available means in order to attain such an end. And it is only when he possesses absolute knowledge of the laws of colour, absolute technical dexterity in both drawing and painting, that he can afford to be an Impressionist—to play with his subject, so to speak, because he is certain of himself and of his own powers. The ignorant and lazy painter considers Impressionism to be a short cut. Not so the real artist, with whom it is the deliberate choice of certain methods by which to record certain phases of nature which are usually considered too delicate, too evanescent, for the brush. And light and fleeting as the effect of the picture may appear, it is often the result of the most patient, solid work. For instance, the actual pâte of Mr. Whistler’s famous ” Wave ” is of extraordinary thickness—solid as the fourmile-deep Atlantic—one colour superposed on another with unlimited skill and knowledge of the result to be produced. And the excellent M. Belot, an engraver, gave Manet eighty sittings as his model for ” Le Bon Bock “.

Modern Impressionism has not come into being in a night like some unhealthy toad-stool growth. It is the result of a regular evolution in the heart of the French school of the nineteenth century. The Impressionists of to-day, if they can trace their ancestry back to some of the giants of the earlier times, are the sons of those great artists of the thirties and forties who dared to go straight to nature and paint her as they saw her, each from his own personal standpoint, discarding once for all the bondage of false formulas both in subject and treatment. Millet was one of their forerunners—Constable and Bonnington have had their share in the evolution—Corot, Courbet,Manet are their parents —those who dared in a period of narrow, academic dogmatism to use the absolutely simple methods, that direct touch, that breadth and mass, that we find in Rembrandt and Velasquez. Those who dared to study in the open air ; who dared to banish for ever from their palettes the bitumens and other abominations which were the curse of the French school of the day ; and to give us in their place the sensation of every delicate, subtle nuance of clear, light, transparent colour, of tone, of the true ” relations between the state of the atmosphere which illumines the picture, and the general tonality ” of the objects painted in it “. These are some of the principles which the Impressionists learned from their immediate forerunners—principles known to the great masters of the past : but lost sight of for many years under the deadening influence of the Classic decadence.

But another factor has had much to do in developing Modern Impressionism. This is the influence of Japanese Art. The more complete and scientific knowledge of Japanese Art which has spread throughout the Western World in the last twenty-five years of the nineteenth century, has been of incalculable importance in its bearings on Modern Art, whether plastic or textile. By its very limitations, Japanese Art has grown to be purely impressionist, as well as intensely naturalistic. And when it became known at its best, artists perceived that certain effects which heretofore had been overlooked altogether, or considered impossible in Art by reason of their elusive nature, were not only possible, but contained elements of beauty which re-paid both study and endeavour. Whether consciously or unconsciously, this Japanese Art has largely influenced the Impressionist school. In no artist’s work is it more evident than in that of M. Degas, whose very perspective has been effected by that of Japan. While many of the landscape painters, since the methods of their Japanese brethren have become known, see that it is possible to paint a red roof, a white wall, a green tree, a blue river, a yellow road, frankly, boldly, without attenuations, or false shadows, in the full blaze of the midday sun—and yet to produce a work of art.

It is novel, it is daring, it is full of dazzling, palpitating light this Impressionist painting. It often exasperates and confuses the public, because the Impressionist has endeavoured to find a language of his own, absolutely suitable to the expression of his thought. ” The indolent eye of the ” public, accustomed to conventional forms, to writings ” consecrated by the whole of a glorious past, is slow to ” make the effort necessary to decipher this language, which ” the unprejudiced read with ease.” 1 And because the Impressionist puts on his canvas what he sees, not what he is expected to see, the public shouts with derisive laughter, or grows stupidly angry. But Impressionist painting nevertheless is perfectly sincere. And in the hands of such masters as M. Claude Monet, as M. Besnard, as M. Renoir, it is full of poetry, of emotion, of beauty, of intense truth to nature and to life in their most subtle and often most charming phases.

The Impressionist doctrine has been summed up by their latest historian as ” the study of luminous phenomena and of ” social phenomena “. These artists are not occupied with the past in history or in tradition. They desire to represent modern life, and the world in which they find themselves at the present moment. Light is what they have sought beyond all besides. And while the more lyric Romantics chose the sunset as their favourite effect in nature, the Impressionists in their preoccupation with close analysis take the light of full midday. ” In this ardent and exclusive ” contemplation of atmosphere made visible,” says M. André Michel, . . . ” and the better to express its splendour, or ” its more fugitive nuances, they have made use of all that ” science has been able to teach about colours ; they have ” decomposed the elements of each tone, and placed them ” side by side upon the canvas, in order to obtain by this ” ` mélange optique ‘ more transparent lights, more delicate ” vibrations.” These little blots of pure colour, which, when seen close, are a fruitful source of rude and imbecile merriment to the ignorant public, resolve themselves at a little distance—the right distance—into flaming skies, shivering trembling leaves, luminous dancing shadows, reflected in liquid, rippling waters. Such effects as these were worth recording. They do not sum up the whole of Art. They are not the ultimate end and attainment of the painter’s craft. But they form a link, a very solid and brilliant link, in the ever-lengthening chain. And such as they are, they are worthy of serious and intelligent consideration.

To Edouard Manet we must look as the real leader of the Impressionist movement. His influence has been of deeper import than has, I think, been fully grasped as yet. For although the, chiefs of the Impressionist School were not his pupils in the strict sense of the word—he seldom even criticised their work—yet they instinctively gathered about him ; and his influence had much to do with the development of their methods and their aims. Manet opened the eyes of many men ; and taught them to look about them, to see for themselves, and to paint what they saw. It was mainly owing to him that his contemporary, M. Degas, left his portraits, and turned to those scenes of the Theatre or the Racecourse, which have made his name famous.

Claude Monet—the modern heir of much of the great Turner’s passionate and fantastic love of passing, fleeting, vivid dreams of colour, light, and atmosphere—was one of the first to recognise the power and truth of Manet’s doctrine. Pissarro, who began as the ” classique raisonable,” joined the camp of revolt. Cézanne gave himself to his bathers and boaters. Sisley to landscapes. Renoir to those rainbow reflections in portrait and figure paintings, dazzling, and delightful. Mme. Berthe Morizot to her luminous sea-pieces, or her genre pictures, at once strong and feminine. And Caillebotte, whose legacy of forty Impressionist pictures to the Luxembourg in 1896 made so profound a sensation in the art world, soon joined the group. Some of them, disdaining the ridicule with which their work was greeted, still exhibited. Manet gained his medals and his cross. M. Renoir in spite of the miserable positions assigned to his pictures, persevered for a considerable time in sending them to the Palais de l’Industrie. M. Sisley has till quite recently exhibited at the Champ de Mars. M.M. Claude Monet, Renoir and Sisley were already known in the atelier of Gleyre, Mr. Whistler’s master. And Claude Monet was in fact the godfather of the movement. For it was the title of a picture of his—” Impression “—which was taken up ironically by the adversaries, and used to designate the whole group.

To this first group others must be added, who exhibited with them in 1874 at Nadar’s on the Boulevard des Capucines—Bracquemond, Boudin, Lepic, Lépine, de Nittis, Legros, Millet, Desboutin. A little later they were joined by Raffaëlli, Lebourg, Forain, etc., who were soon taken up by the public, and whose names appeared in the annual catalogues of the Salons. M. Besnard, though considerably their junior, now ranks as one of the most brilliant of the school. While numbers of other artists whose talent has developed on quite other lines, ” though they have not “borrowed Manet’s paint brush, have looked through his ” glasses”. And the spirit and genius of Manet have been with Roll, with Gervex, Bastien-Lepage, Cazin, Lhermitte, and many more ; though their strong and vigorous personality has led them into paths of their own.

But Art in France is never absolutely stationary. It is always searching, reaching forward to some fresh revelation. And already signs are to be seen of a new movement among the younger artists, of which it is too soon to speak with any authority. Certain among them ” while they profit by the ” acquisitions of the school of the open-air, while they ” remain attentive to the play of reflections and delicate ” harmonies of the envelope, are returning to a closer study ” of form, and a relatively sombre and ‘ ancient ‘ mode of ” painting, which reposes us from the excesses of impressionism “.1 These artists would seem to consider that the preoccupation of the Impressionists with light—sometimes with violent, unmitigated light—has been carried far enough. They prefer the crépuscule. And they choose the mysterious light of plain or forest, or the dimness of an interior, at the lovely hour when daylight dies on the earth, but still lingers on tree-tops and cloud and hill. Such men as M. René Ménard, M. Lucien Simon, M.M. Prinet, Griveau, Boulard, Dauchez, etc., will have to be counted with in the twentieth century.


MANET, EDOUARD, (b. Paris, 1833 ; d. 1883).-The fate of all the most original artists of the nineteenth century—Delacroix, Géricault, Rousseau, Corot, Millet, Courbet—has been opposition, abuse, neglect, and at last, often too late, a tardy recognition. But the abuse which was meted out so unsparingly to his predecessors, was as nothing compared with that lavished upon Edouard Manet.

The eldest of three brothers in a well-connected family belonging to the magistracy, Edouard Manet was destined for the bar or the army. As a child his education was carried on by the abbé Poiloup. He then entered the Collège Rollin, where his life-long friendship began with M. Antonin Proust. But the boy’s passion for Art already displayed itself. From an uncle in the Artillery, an enthusiastic sketcher in pen and ink, the nephew soon caught the fever ; covering his exercise books with portraits, landscapes, and fanciful drawings. And when at sixteen his studies at the College were ended, he declared that he preferred Art to the Code, and that a lawyer he would not be. His family were of a different opinion. They promptly sent the youth to sea in a merchant vessel. And he had an uneventful voyage to Rio Janiero, making pencil sketches of all he saw—a picturesque corner of the deck of the Guadeloupe—an amusing face or scene in South America. In the later days he often laughed over his first essay in painting. As the vessel neared the coast it was discovered that the cargo of Dutch cheeses had been damaged by salt water. Edouard Manet offered to repair the disaster. ” Consciencieusement, avec un blaireau, je refis la toilette des ” têtes de mort, qui reprirent leur belle teinte lie de vin. ” —Ce fut mon premier morceau de peinture.”

Upon his return, Manet, in spite of his family’s protests, entered Couture’s studio. Couture, a disappointed man, whose temper was irritable and whose tongue was bitter, was specially severe on any student who showed signs of originality. His pupils were to perpetuate his own methods. They were to learn the lessons he taught them, and nothing else. Manet’s personality and audacity were evident in every line he drew. And his method of work from the model —taking here an ear, there a turn of the neck, there a shoulder, and treating it independently of the rest—infuriated the teacher. Manet’s principle, both then and for the rest of his life, was to make use of all technical instruction : but to observe nature closely, and reproduce it according to his own feeling ; neither borrowing from his predecessors, or his memory, but boldly facing reality.

The scenes of the terrible days of December, 1851, made a profound impression on the young artist. And the story of his adventures and hairbreadth ‘scapes have been vividly told by M. Proust who shared in them, and by Bazire in his Life of Manet. Unsettled and distracted by national events, unsatisfied by Couture’s teaching, Manet while ostensibly remaining a pupil in the studio, made several journeys to study the foreign galleries. He first went to Germany and Austria ; and later on to Italy. His sketch books in Florence are crowded with notes of extreme interest. He merely glanced at Rome : but Venice and its collections enchanted him. He spent some time there ; and we are told that a rapid copy of a Tintoret was ” a marvel of clever reproduction “. This journey left a certain mark upon his work for some time.

But Manet was still unsatisfied-groping, seeking for light and truth. Couture’s studio offered little that suited either his taste or his temperament. He and M. Proust took counsel with the great masters of the Louvre and it was in the Louvre, with Velasquez and Goya, that Manet found the answer to all his questionings and aspirations for light and for truth. Spain alone could satisfy him ; and to revive and respect the teaching of Spain under modern aspects, by modern methods, became his ambition. Disgusted by the brutalities of Couture’s criticism, or rather abuse, Manet finally left his studio, and gave himself up with increasing ardour to work according to his own convictions. From early dawn till twilight in his simple studio of the rue Lavoisier, he was to be found at his easel. A few, a very few friends in art and letters recognised his talent. And Mr. Whistler, M.M. Legros, Fantin-Latour, Zola and Baudelaire, were from the first his most faithful, most valiant exponents and defenders.

In 1861 he made his first appearance at the Salon with a portrait of himself and his young wife, and ” The Spanish Guitar Player “. Over both the cry of ” realisin ” was raised. ” Realism ” was the béte-noir of the moment. But still the delightful ” Guitar player ” was less maltreated than might have been expected. Théophile Gautier, with his generous, honest recognition of what was fine, no matter whence it came, was enthusiastic. ” Caramba,” he cries, ” there is a ” guitarero who does not hail from the Opéra-Comique, ” . . . but Velasquez would greet him with a friendly little ” wink, and Goya would hand him down a light for his ” papelito.” And more than this. The Jury of the Salon, inspired by Delacroix, actually gave Manet a mention honorable. It was his first success. And his last for many a year.

In the two next years the partisans of tradition were too strong. Manet was excluded from the Salon. In the famous—or infamous—Salon of 1863, such was the enmity displayed by the Jury to all but received and well-authenticated talent, that the Exposition des Refusés was opened in the same building as the Salon des Acceptés. In this ” den of Revolution,” as it was supposed to be, Manet was one of the artists whose works attracted most attention. But a surprising list of names were grouped about him. Legros, Bracquemond, Jongkind, Harpignies, Whistler, Saint-Marcel, Sutter, Lavielle, etc. Manet’s ” Déjeuner sur l’herbe,” ” le Bain,” ” Le Fifre de la Garde,” made a profound impression. The Emperor and Empress scandalized the official world by adventuring themselves into the dangers of the den, and still more by admiring what they found there. And the obedient public followed their example. It was a heavy blow to officialdom ; and it had its effect. In the next year Manet appeared again at the Salon in company with many of the other refusés ; though the critics attacked him with ferocity.

His ” Olympia ” of 1865, now in the Luxembourg, which in some of its treatment, especially in the brevity of the shadows, and the delicate modelling of the contours in the lights, has much in common with the work of Ingres, created a perfect scandal. It is curious to read over some of the criticisms of the day.

The next year, however, the ” Joueur de Fifre ” and the ” Acteur tragique ” were refused by the Jury. And in 1867 both Manet and Courbet were excluded from the Universal Exposition. They replied by opening independent exhibitions of their own works, to let the public judge whether they were indeed the ruffians and criminals they were supposed to be. Manet exhibited fifty pictures. It was a grand record of work of the most varied kind. With the beautiful ” Enfant à l’Épée,” might be seen ” le Buveur d’Absinthe,” “le Guitarero,” “Lola de Valence,” “le Christ mort et les Anges ” ; besides sea-pieces, portraits, still-life, flowers, animals, eaux fortes, and three fine copies. As he said in the quiet and dignified introduction to the catalogue, ” The Artist does not say to you to-day, Come and see ” faultless works : but, Come and see sincere works “. The protest had its effect. If his pictures were still laughed at, they were for nine years admitted to the Salons. And an increasing number of persons saw that Manet must be counted with seriously. M. Zola, in 1867, had published a study upon the artist, which is a chef d’oeuvre of artistic criticism. And other writers now followed his example.

The year 1870 marks a most important stage in the artist’s career. It was just before the war that a mere accident—the visit to a friend near Paris, in whose park he began painting—revealed to Manet a new method—painting in the open-air. And after he had served throughout the siege of Paris in the artists’ battalion of the Garde Nationale, with Meisonnier as Colonel, he once more took up his brush —but as a new man. No longer an exclusive follower of the Spaniards, Manet had found the full use of his powers. And henceforth he was the pioneer, opening the way for those who have come after him in the school of plein-air.

Then the recognition waited for so long, so courageously’, began to come to him. M. Théodore Duret, whose Critique d’Avant Garde is the most valuable work on the Impressionists, had long been one of his devoted defenders, and had already bought an example of the master’s second manner. And now M. Durand-Ruel came forward. Recognising the immense importance of the artist’s work, he bought 50,000 francs-worth of these despised pictures ; thus beginning his celebrated collections of Impressionist paintings. Others soon followed such a lead. M.M. Ephrussi, Bernstein, May, and many other enlightened amateurs, possessed them-selves of Manet’s pictures. M. Faure, the celebrated singer, owns a collection of thirty-five.

The ” School of the Batignolles,” as it was called, gathered new converts to itself. And the fine sea-piece in 1872, the fight between ” The Kearsage and Alabama,” so original in treatment, so true to nature, won the artist many admirers. But it was ” Le Bon Bock ” which brought him a really popular success. And until 1876 unkind fortune seemed to have relented in some degree. But in this year ” Le Linge,” and ” Desboutin ” the engraver’s portrait, were both refused admission to the Salon. This time the Jury has gone a step too far. Manet was an artist of recognised power. The press, with hardly an exception, cried out with indignation at such treatment. For, as one distinguished person, since well-known in public life, said truly in a letter to the artist, ” The Jury is at liberty to say, I do not like ” Manet. But not to cry, Down with Manet—Â la porte, ” Manet.”

The artist had only one more insult to endure. The Universal Exhibition of 1878 followed the example of that of 1867. Manet’s pictures were excluded. But now the Jury of the Salon was transformed by the introduction of new blood. After 1878 Manet, if not welcomed by all, was received with courtesy at the Palais de l’Industrie. In 1880 his magnificent portrait of M. Antonin Proust conquered all prejudices. In 1881 seventeen members of the Jury triumphed over an adverse minority ; and Manet was given a second medal. Among the valiant seventeen we find the names of Carolus-Duran, Cazin, Duez, Gervex, Guillaumet, Henner, Lalanne, de Neuville, Roll, Vuillefroy.—It is pleasant to record them. And in December of the same year, M. Antonin Proust, then Directeur des Beaux Arts, had the happiness and satisfaction of giving his friend the Legion of Honour. It was an act of courage. But it was also one of justice. And happily it came just not too late. For in little more than twelve months the artist, who had led the way so bravely for so many years, despite opposition, ridicule, and persecution, died painfully, just as success and recognition as a master among the masters had come to him.

Examples—Luxembourg :

Olympia, 1865 ; Le Balcon, 1869, etc.

Portrait, M. Antonin Proust, 1880; Jeanne, 1882, Collection M. A. Proust.

Le Guitarero, 1861 ; Le Fifre ; Le Bon Bock, 1873 ; Hamlet ; and many others, Collection M. Faure.

L’enfant a l’Épée, Metropolitan Art Museum, New York.

DEGAS, HILAIRE-GERMAIN-EDGAR (b. Paris, 1834).—A pupil of Lamothe, M. Degas entered the École des Beaux Arts in 1855. Ten years later he exhibited a pastel, ” Scène de guerre au moyen age,” in the Salon ; the next year a ” Steeple Chase ” ; and in 1867-8 various portraits. But two influences were destined to have a profound effect on the artist’s work and career. First the friendship and principles of Manet. Secondly the Art of Japan.

M. Degas has always been distinguished by the science and precision of his drawing. He in fact prefers the point to the brush. And hence to some extent his predeliction for pastel, with which he can obtain at the same time an exquisite and harmonious colour effect with scrupulously exact draftsmanship. But while Manet’s example induced him to leave his portraits and devote himself to modern life—to grace in motion, to scenes of the racecourse and the theatre —Japanese Art completely transformed his outlook on Art. He not only became a decorative painter, as is every Japanese artist. But he even adopted in some cases the very methods and perspective of Japan—thereby producing effects so unusual as to cause confusion and dismay to the spectator-who while willing enough to think such effects perfectly legitimate and even admirable in the hands of a Japanese, considered them but little short of criminal in those of a European.

Examples of M. Degas’s work are to be seen in the Luxembourg, the collections of M.M. Durand-Ruel, and of many amateurs in Paris, the United States, and in London.

MONET, CLAUDE (b. Paris, 1840),—pupil of Gleyre, stands at the head of the Impressionist School. A great artist, with a profound knowledge of ways and means, he endeavours to render the purest poetry of nature, her most exquisite, most elusive aspects, with the brush. A legitimate heir in his passionate sense of colour of the great Turner, M. Claude Monet has gone further in his analysis of colour, of light, of atmosphere, than any other member of the Impressionist ‘School. He paints straight from nature ; and seeing nature with the eye of the colourist as well as the poet, he is not afraid to find in nature colour harmonies hithertos hardly noticed.

As soon as artists such as Corot, Courbet, and Manet began to paint straight from nature, they saw that painting must no longer be black, but light ; that nature was full of light ; and that only the clearest, purest, lightest tones should be used to reproduce on canvas ” l’éther ardent et “sublime, manteau brillant, émanation souveraine de Zéus ” ! Delacroix, the first colourist of the nineteenth century in France, led the way. Then came Corot and Courbet ; and Manet completed the revolution which was to open the eyes ,of artists and public to the. enchantment of light and colour.

That the exclusive worship of light and colour has led many of its devotees into noisy, and sometimes absurd excesses is. but to be expected. But M. Claude Monet has already won a place wholly his own ; and made a contribution of the very highest value, as well as of exquisite beauty, to the study of colour and of nature in her most fugitive and most poetic aspects.

The Luxembourg now contains two admirable examples of the artist’s work. ” Jardin des Tuileries ” and ” A snow scene “.

The doors of M. Durand-Ruel’s appartement in Paris have been decorated with fruit and flowers by M. Claude Monet ;. and some of these decorations, notably a branch of oranges, are of striking beauty. M. Durand-Ruel also possesses a large collection of his finest pictures. A number of his. pictures are in America, where they are greatly appreciated. Mr. Desmond FitzGerald, of Brookline, Mass., owns perhaps. six of the finest landscapes Monet has ever painted. And the ” Champ d’Avoines,” belonging to Mr. John Nicholas Brown,. of Providence, R.I., is also among his best. Mr. Potter Palmer, Chicago; Mr. Frank Thomson, Philadelphia; Mr. H. O. Havemeyer, New York ; Mr. A. A. Pope, Cleveland ; Mr. C. Lambert, Paterson, are also among the principal collectors of Monet’s works in the United States.

While in France the chief collectors are the Comte de Camodo, M. Faure, the well-known singer, M. Durand-Ruel, whose private collection in the rue de Rome comprises many of the finest Monets, M.M. Decap, Pellerin, Gallimard and Bérard, in Paris ; and M. Depeaux in Rouen.

In 1891 M.M. Durand-Ruel organised an Exhibition in their galeries of the rue Laffite of fifteen of Monet’s celebrated series of ” Haystacks “. In 1895 they exhibited the twenty views of ” Rouen Cathedral “. And some of them were again. exhibited at the Petit Galleries in 1898, with Views of Vernon, and Norwegian Landscapes.

RENOIR, PIERRE AUGUSTE (b. Limoges, 1841).-A pupil of Gleyre, where he was associated with M.M. Claude Monet and Sisley, M. Renoir first appeared at the Salon in 1864 with ” La Esméralda “. In spite of his pictures being ” skied,” or put out of the way in corners, he persevered for many years in sending to the Salons. In 1879, with three other pictures, he exhibited his amazing portrait of ” Mile. Jeanne Samary of the Comédie Française “—a superb example of his art. M. Renoir excels in portraiture of women and children. His light and rapid brush gives their supple and subtle grace. He is the figure-painter par excellence of the earlier Impressionists. On his canvas he groups life-size figures, generally half-lengths—a sort of magnified genre painting. But all are plunged in a rainbow atmosphere, in which the play of multi-coloured, reflected lights produces an effect at once novel and charming.

M. Renoir was one of the first of that little group known as l’École des Batignolles who gathered round Edouard Manet. And although, as I have said, Manet did not pre-tend to teach, or even to criticise the work of those who met together twice a week at the Café Guerbois, he was always eager to help them on by pointing out the merits of their work to critics or amateurs. Fantin-Latour in his ” Atelier aux Batignolles ” (Luxembourg) has immortalized some of the group. Manet sitting at his easel, M.M. Renoir, Claude Monet, Zola, Maître, Astruc, and Bazile, gathered about him, as he paints M. Otto Schoederer’s portrait.

M. Renoir was one of the original members of that Impressionist Exhibition in 1877, which made such a stir and first showed the public that the Impressionists were a body who had to be taken into account in future. The majority of those who visited the rue Le Peletier seemed to think ” that the artists who exhibited were not perhaps devoid ” of talent, and that they could perhaps have produced good ” pictures if they had chosen to paint like the rest of the ” world, but that their first object was to make a row to ” enrage the public “- While the amateurs or critics who ventured to admire these works were treated as amiable lunatics.

A recent exhibition of the works of the four chief Impressionists (1898), at Monsieur Durand-Ruel’s galeries in the rue Laffite, has proved how public taste has changed. And the large room filled only with M. Renoir’s works showed the solid worth, as well as brilliancy and vivid charm of colour and treatment in the artist’s work. Most of the same amateurs who I have mentioned as collectors of Monet’s pictures, pay great attention to the works of Renoir, Sisley, and Pissarro.

Exhibitions of Renoir’s works were held in the Durand-Ruel Galleries in 1892 and 1898.

Among the finest examples by Renoir are :

La Femme au chat, Collection Durand-Ruel; La Terrasse ; La Femme à l’éventail ; Pêcheurs au bord de la mer ; Délainer à Bougival ; La Loge ; Portrait de Mademoiselle Samary ; Jardin à Fontenay aux Roses ; La Tasse de Thé ; La Bouquetière ; La Source ; etc., etc.

PISSARRO, CAMILLE (b. Saint-Thomas, West Indies, 1830), was a pupil of M.M. A. Melbye and Corot. His first Salon picture, ” Paysage à Montmorency,” was exhibited in 1859. And it is curious in reading over the ” Salons ” most in sympathy with the aims of the newer school, to find that for several years such critics even as M. Théodore Duret, chide him gently for a certain want of light in his pictures ! He is certainly the one of the Impressionists whose methods are most in keeping with those of the earlier naturalist school. And it was not until he came under the all-powerful influence of Manet that he left the manner of a ” classique raisonable,” and joined the band of the Batignolles.

M. Pissarro chose for his earlier pictures the landscape of the pure country districts, plough lands and harvest fields, leafless or full-flowered trees, the country road, the farm yard, the village street. But with his second manner his subjects too have changed. And the boulevards with all their sense of movement, of haste, of clear, bright atmosphere, have become his favourite theme. He treats such subjects with a never-failing freshness, variety, and charm, with an intense appreciation of the light and colour and life of the great city, preserving in all a breadth and harmony of conception and execution which is most impressive.

Among the chief examples of his work are :

Sydenham ; La veillée ; Retour des champs ; Vue de Rouen—all reproduced in L’Art Impressionniste by G. Lecomte, 1892—L’Église d’Eragny ; Le Printemps ; Paysanne gardant ses Oies ; Le Pont de Charing Cross ; Vue de Pontoise ; La récolte des pommes de terre ; Vue de Knocke, Flandre occidentale ; Vue de Louveciennes.

Exhibitions of the works of M. Pissarro were organised by M.M. Durand-Ruel in 1892-94-96. In 1897 an exhibition of Views of Rouen took place. And in 1898 a very remarkable one of views of Paris, taken from the Boulevard des Italiens, during the Carnival or in winter, and the place du Théâtre Français, near the Avenue de l’opéra.

BESNARD, PAUL ALBERT, O.* (b. Paris).—Pupil of J. Brémond and Cabanel, M. Besnard gained the Grand Prix de Rome in 1874. But this vigorous and original artist very soon broke loose from the bonds of academic system, and began to see light and colour for himself. Having exhibited pretty regularly since 1864, in 1882 M. Antonin Proust called attention to his sincerity of expression, ” which has ” not been sufficiently remarked ” in ” L’abondance encourageant le travail And the vigour and life of his portraits in 1884 of M. Legros, Mr. J. Johnston, London correspondent of the Figaro, and M. Magnard its editor, were most striking. Then came the grand decorations of the École de Pharmacie, which confirmed M. Besnard’s reputation as a thoroughly original artist, and a great decorator. ” With Besnard,” says M. de Lostalot, ” we enter the ” domain of fantasy : but fantasy regulated by science. The ” artist went to Rome, as we know. But should we reproach ” him if he has not stayed there ? The École des Beaux Arts, ” admirably fulfils its use as a nursery garden for ordinary ” talent. If it helps on the growth of a wild plant is that a ” reason to cry that it is profaned? M. Besnard, brought ” up, instructed by the School, owes it great gratitude, but ” not to the extent of renouncing his artistic being in which ” the desire for novelty, for a fresh departure, is surging.”

M. Besnard, though he did not strictly belong to the earlier group of Impressionists, has more and more given himself over to the aims and objects, the studies, the enthusiasms which move them. His chief preoccupation also, is with light, colour, and atmosphere. On these points he is a great theorist. ” He does not consider that light is a thing ” by itself, intended to illumine objects : but that it is ” already a colour, or rather a mixture of diluted colours “—absorbing all reflections from the surfaces it touches on reaching the earth, and renewing and increasing their luminous vibrations.

Even when he startles us, M. Besnard is always interesting. There is a rhythmic amplitude about his figures—especially his women—which is suggestive of true ” style,” in these days when style is rare. That he chooses exceptional effects is true—as in the ” Flamenco,” 1898, or the ” Marché aux chevaux Arabes,” 1898, or ” La Femme qui se chauffe,” in the Luxembourg, which is a marvel of reflected lights. But as M. Paul Mantz, that most severe and fear-less of critics, said in 1889, ” this study of artificial light ” would not have displeased Rubens “. And in his amazing “Portrait de Théatre” of 1898, with the sweep of its miraculous pink satin gown, and the delicious tone of the set scene behind, he has created an enchanting masterpiece from a flash of colour, of light, of a laugh, as Mme. Réjane raps out some delightful impertinence.

M. Besnard like so many seekers for light, has been led to the East. And during a winter and spring in Algiers he found the light and colour that responded to those visions that had haunted him. But Algeria as seen by M. Besnard contrasts curiously with the Algeria of many of the earlier orientalists. It is an Algeria, seen through a transparent “mist of reflections, and exquisite, vaporous tints.” And over it all seems

” Courir un frisson d’or, de nacre et d’émeraude “.

In M. Besnard’s decorative paintings—such as those of the Hotel de Ville, the Mairie of St. Germain l’Auxerrois, etc.—this preoccupation with light and colour produces a brilliant and happy result. While in the celebrated frescoes of the Ecole de la Pharmacie, to the beauty of decoration is added the beauty of original and poetic sentiment.

SISLEY, ALFRED (b. Paris, 18401), another pupil of Gleyre, and a true lover of the country, delights to render its gayest aspects. In his methods of colour he belongs to the Impressionist school ; he has indeed been often called a ” pointiliste,” which seems to be—whatever it may mean—a serious ac cusation, one almost capable of leading the miscreant to the cour d’Assises in time. If, however, his pictures were looked at without prejudice, it is probable that such a delightful work as the ” Boat Race at Henley,” now in the Luxembourg, would disarm criticism, and be found to be a most vivid and artistic rendering of the scene, with its brilliant colour, light, and atmosphere. M. Sisley is well-known for his views of Moret, near Fontainebleau, and landscapes about that town.

Among his best works are :

Les bords du Loing ; Effet d’automne ; La Seine a

St Mammés ; La rivière ” La Serpentine ”

Londres ; Le pont de Moret ; La Seine a Marly ;

Paysage a Louveciennes.

BOUDIN, EUGÉNE, (b. Honfleur, 1825 ; d. 1898), must be classed among the Impressionists ; though for some reason he has never been subjected to the same distrust and persecution as the rest of the school. He received a third class medal in 1881; a second class in 1883 ; and was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1889. His two admirable pictures, ” Corvette Russe dans le bassin de l’Eure ” (1887) and ” Villefranche—la rade (1893), are in the Luxembourg.

M. Boudin exhibited with the Impressionists in their Early exhibitions. And his methods, and appreciation of colour and light, show that his aims are the same as theirs.

Among the members of the Impressionist group we may also mention :

GOENEUTTE, NORBERT (1854-1894), who died at the age of forty, just as his fine etchings and his singular and interesting paintings were giving him a distinct position.

MONTICELLI, ADOLPHE (b. Marseilles, 1824 ; d. 1886), who, though belonging to a much older generation, had a great deal in common with the later school in his methods of colour, and his most curious and fantastic scenes. BRACQUEMOND, FÉLIX, 0. (b. Paris), the celebrated engraver. MORISOT, Mme. BERTHE, the pupil and friend of Manet, of whose delicate, yet vigorous work the Luxembourg contains an admirable example. Further information about Impressionism:Impressionism @ WikipediaImpressionismImpressionismThe ImpressionistModern Painting – The Impressionists And Their AlliesThe Post-ImpressionistsLandscape Painting – The True Impressionism