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The Innovative French Impressionists

Paul Cezanne
Paul Cezanne occupies a unique position in the pantheon of Impressionist Artists. In that his work, especially his later painting, formed the bridge between Impressionism and the (then) newly evolving style of Cubism. Taking this into consideration, it’s apparent that he was a great influence on both Matisse and Picasso

The Metropolitan Musem’s James Voorhies has the rest of the Cezanne Story:

“Beginning to paint in 1860 in his birthplace of Aix-en-Provence and subsequently studying in Paris, Cézanne’s early pictures of romantic and classical themes are imbued with dark colors and executed with an expressive brushwork in the tradition of Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863). Dramatic tonal contrasts and thick layers of pigment (often applied with a palette knife) exemplify the vigor in which Cézanne painted during the 1860s, especially apparent in the portrait series of his uncle Dominique Aubert, variously costumed as a lawyer, an artist, and a monk. This kind of costume piece is reminiscent of Édouard Manet’s Spanish paintings of the 1860s.

While the three works that Cézanne exhibited in 1874 at the first Impressionist exhibition were not fully in line with the Impressionist technique of quickly placing appliqués of pigment on the canvas, he did eventually abandon his relatively dark palette in exchange for brilliant tones and began painting out-of-doors, encouraged by the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830–1903). His Bathers of 1874–75 demonstrates a developed style and tonal scale in one of his first paintings of this theme, which recurs in his oeuvre. The landscape of Bathers has the brilliance of plein-air painting, while the figures, drawn from the artist’s imagination (Cézanne rarely painted nudes from life), reconcile themselves within this setting. The complex process of drawing inspiration from these two sources, nature and memory, would occupy Cézanne in his later work. The Fisherman (Fantastic Scene), of about 1875, shares the same bright tones as Bathers, while its subject recalls the themes of fantasy familiar from the 1860s; it too could be the product of two polar sources.

In his still-life paintings from the mid-1870s, Cézanne abandoned his thickly encrusted surfaces and began to address technical problems of form and color by experimenting with subtly gradated tonal variations, or “constructive brushstrokes,” to create dimension in his objects. Still Life with Jar, Cup, and Apples shows Cézanne’s rejection of the intense contrasts of light and shadow of his earlier years in exchange for a refined system of color scales placed next to one another. The light of Impressionism resonates in this work, but signs of a revised palette are especially apparent in his muted tones. Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, a mature work from the early 1890s, reveals Cézanne’s artistic evolution and mastery of this style of building forms completely from color and creating scenes with distorted perspectival space. The objects in this painting, such as the fruit and tablecloth, are rendered without use of light or shadow, but through extremely subtle gradations of color. In such still lifes as Dish of Apples of about 1875–77, as in his landscapes, Cézanne ignores the laws of classical perspective, allowing each object to be independent within the space of a picture while the relationship of one object to another takes precedence over traditional single-point perspective.

From 1882, Cézanne executed a substantial number of landscape pictures of his native Aix and of L’Estaque, a small fishing village near Marseille, in which he continues to concentrate on pictorial problems of creating depth. Here Cézanne used an organized system of layers to construct a series of horizontal planes, which build dimension and draw the viewer into the landscape. This technique is apparent in Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley and The Gulf of Marseille Seen from L’Estaque. In Gardanne, he painted the landscape with intense volumetric patterns of geometric rhythms most pronounced in the houses. This picture anticipates the Cubism of Georges Braque (1882–1963) and Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), especially Braque’s impressions of L’Estaque of about 1908.

Learn more about Impressionist and Post-Impressionist images of Paul Cezanne  – HERE.

In this video there’s a great selection of  Paul Cezanne’s Art.

Paul Gauguin

Like Cezanne who was a bridge to post-impressionism, Paul Gauguin was to serve the same function for what would be labelled “Symbolism.” Ironic when you consider that Gauguin hadn’t intended to make Art a career. He was an amateur painter and successful stockbroker. Until the stock market crashed. It was then he embarked on his artistic voyage.

Since Gauguin had previously collected works by the Impressionists, He bgean studying with Camille Pissarro. Who along with Edgar Degas arranged for him to show his first paintings in the Fourth Impressionist Exhibition of 1879. Has the rest of the Gauguin Story:

“Gauguin, born on June 7, 1848, created his own unique painting style, much like he crafted his own distinctive path through life. Known for bold colors, simplified forms and strong lines, he didn’t have any art formal training. Gauguin instead followed his own vision, abandoning both his family and artistic conventions.

Gauguin was born in Paris, but his family moved to Peru when he was a young child. His journalist father died on the journey to South America. Eventually returning to France, Gauguin took to the seas as a merchant marine. He was also in the French Navy for a time, and then worked as a stockbroker. In 1873, he married a Danish woman named Mette Gad. The couple eventually had five children together.

Emerging Artist

Gauguin began painting in his spare time, but quickly became serious about his hobby. One of his works was accepted into the “Salon of 1876,” an important art show in Paris. Gauguin met artist Camille Pissarro around this time, and his work attracted the interest of the Impressionists. The Impressionists were a group of revolutionary artists who challenged traditional methods and subjects, and had been largely rejected by the French art establishment. Gauguin was invited to show at the group’s fourth exhibition in 1879, and his work appeared among the works of Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and other artistic greats.

By 1883, Gauguin had stopped working as a stockbroker so that he could fully devote himself to his art. He also soon parted ways from his wife and children, and eventually went to Brittany, France. In 1888, Gauguin created one of his most famous paintings, “Vision of the Sermon.” The boldly colored work showed the Biblical tale of Jacob wrestling with the angel. The following year, Gauguin painted “The Yellow Christ,” a striking portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus.

Gauguin was one of the art world’s more colorful characters. He referred to himself as a savage, and claimed to have Inca blood. Fond of alcohol and carousing, Gauguin eventually contracted syphilis. He was friends with fellow artist Vincent van Gogh. In 1888, Gauguin and van Gogh spent several weeks together at van Gogh’s home in Arles, but their time together ended after van Gogh pulled a razor on Gauguin during an argument. That same year, Gauguin produced the now-famous oil painting “Vision After the Sermon.”

Artist in Exile

In 1891, Gauguin sought to escape the constructions of European society, and he thought that Tahiti might offer him some type of personal and creative freedom.”

Learn More about Impressionist and Symbolist Artist Paul Gauguin  HERE

Some of Paul Gauguin’s most famous paintings are in this video.

Georges Seurat

Georges Seurat occupies a special place in the History of Impressionism. One that goes beyond it’s techniques, but embodies it’s ideals. Though presenting them in a different manner. Seurat, along with fellow painter Paul Signac, is credited with inventing a new form of artistic expression : “pointillism.” The movement these Artists created was also referred to as Neo-impressionism.”

Art Historian Dita Amory explains:

“Neo-Impressionism is a term applied to an avant-garde art movement that flourished principally in France from 1886 to 1906. Led by the example of Georges Seurat, artists of the Neo-Impressionist circle renounced the random spontaneity of Impressionism in favor of a measured painting technique grounded in science and the study of optics. Encouraged by contemporary writing on color theory—the treatises of Charles Henry, Eugène Chevreul, and Odgen Rood for example—Neo-Impressionists came to believe that separate touches of interwoven pigment result in a greater vibrancy of color in the observer’s eye than is achieved by the conventional mixing of pigments on the palette. Known as mélange optique (optical mixture), this meticulous paint application would, they felt, realize a pulsating shimmer of light on the canvas. In the words of the artist Paul Signac, Neo-Impressionism’s greatest propagandist, “the separated elements will be reconstituted into brilliantly colored lights.” The separation of color through individual strokes of pigment came to be known as Divisionism, while the application of precise dots of paint came to be called Pointillism.

Artists of the Neo-Impressionist circle renounced the random spontaneity of Impressionism in favor of a measured painting technique grounded in science and the study of optics.

The art critic Félix Fénéon first used the term “Neo-Impressionism” to describe the paintings of Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, Camille Pissarro, and his son Lucien Pissarro, at the eighth and last Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1886. Seurat debuted his masterpiece A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, a virtual manifesto for the Neo-Impressionist technique. His manner of weaving and layering small brushstrokes indeed achieved a tapestry-like paint surface of complementary and contrasting hues. Even Vincent van Gogh admired Seurat’s expansive palette, noting on a visit to Seurat’s studio the “fresh revelation of color.”

Neo-Impressionism cast its allure far and wide, traversing generations and national boundaries. Camille Pissarro (View from My Window) was among the first to embrace Seurat’s system of color harmony, recognizing it as “a new phase in the logical march of Impressionism.” In Belgium, where French Neo-Impressionism debuted at the exhibition of Les XX in 1887, Théo Van Rysselberghe adopted Seurat’s idiosyncratic technique, as did other avant-garde artists. Some years later, even Henri Matisse tipped his hat to Neo-Impressionism when he joined Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross in Saint-Tropez in the summer of 1904, and painted Luxe, calme et volupté, an imaginary figural landscape painted in divided brush marks of glowing color.

Georges Seurat’s powerful presence as the leader of Neo-Impressionism resonated among artists for decades. Charles Angrand’s self-portrait bears a striking resemblance to Seurat’s shadowy sheets drawn in black crayon. Henri-Edmond Cross and Hippolyte Petitjean adapted the Divisionist technique to watercolor painting. In Saint-Clair, a village on the Côte d’Azur near Saint-Tropez, Cross painted radiant landscapes in watercolor, using a vivid palette of saturated color in mosaic-like brush marks. Petitjean’s watercolors mastered the art of Pointillism to decorative perfection . In the early twentieth century, Fauve artists turned to Seurat’s technique for purity of color. Even abstract painters Mondrian and Kandinsky practiced Pointillism.”

Learn more about Neo-Impressionist/Pointillist Painter George Seurat  HERE.

This video has more of the Pointillism of George Seurat.

Eduoard MANET

Although he never exhibited with them, Eduoard Manet exerted a strong influence on the impressionist movement. He was one of the first, if not the first of the Artists of his day, to rebel against the conservatism of the art establisment, and the the tastes of the general public which that conservatism fostered.

Washington’s National Gallery has the rest of this “Artistic Rebel’s” story:
“When Edouard Manet began to study painting in 1850, Paris’ familiar, broad, tree-lined streets did not yet exist, and the life of the city was not a subject artists explored. Young artists could expect to succeed only through the official Academy exhibitions known as Salons, whose conservative juries favored biblical and mythological themes and a polished technique. Within twenty-five years, however, both Paris and painting had new looks. Renovations had opened the wide avenues and parks we know today, and painting was transformed when artists abandoned the transparent glazes and blended brushstrokes of the past and turned their attention to new techniques and to life around them. Contemporary urban subjects and a bold style, which offered paint on the canvas as something to be admired in itself, gave their art a strong, new sense of the present.

More than in his teacher’s studio, Manet learned to paint in the Louvre by studying old masters. He was particularly impressed by the seventeenth-century Spanish artist Diego Velázquez, contrasting his vivid brushwork with the “stews and gravies” of academic style. Manet began to develop a freer manner, creating form not through a gradual blending of tones, but with discrete areas of color side by side. He drew on the old masters for structure, often incorporating their motifs, but giving them a modern cast.
Several artists had already begun to challenge the stale conventions of the Academy when Manet’s Olympia (today in the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris) was accepted for the Salon in 1865. It caused a scandal. Critics advised pregnant women to avoid the picture, and it was re-hung to thwart vandals. Viewers were not used to flat space and shallow volumes in painting. To many, Manet’s “color patches” appeared unfinished. Even more shocking was the frank honesty of the courtesan: her boldness—not nudity—offended. Her languid pose copied a painting of Venus by the Italian artist Titian, but Manet did not cloak her with mythology.”

Learn More about Edouard Manet’s Expressionistic Art  HERE.

This vdieo has an excellent Biography of Manet and his Art.