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The Most Celebrated French Impressionists

Claude MONET

Although he wasn’t technically the “first” to paint in what we regard as the Impressionist style, it was an art critic’s description of one of his paintings that gave the movement it’s name.

Without doubt the most famous of the “impressionist school” – Claude Monet enjoyed a financial security that eluded the majority of his fellow artists. This, and his home at Giverny outside Paris with it’s now famous gardens, all contributed to his prolific creation.

Laura Auricchio has more “Monet Moments.”

“Raised in Normandy, Monet was introduced to plein-air painting by Eugène Boudin, known for paintings of the resorts that dotted the region’s Channel coast, and subsequently studied informally with the Dutch landscapist Johan Jongkind (1819–1891). When he was twenty-two, Monet joined the Paris studio of the academic history painter Charles Gleyre. His classmates included Auguste Renoir, Frédéric Bazille, and other future Impressionists. Monet enjoyed limited success in these early years, with a handful of landscapes, seascapes, and portraits accepted for exhibition at the annual Salons of the 1860s. Yet many of the rejection of his more ambitious works, notably the large-scale Women in the Garden (1866; Musée d’Orsay, Paris), inspired Monet to join with Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, Renoir, and others in establishing an independent exhibition in 1874. Impression: Sunrise (1873; Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris), one of Monet’s contributions to this exhibition, drew particular scorn for the unfinished appearance of its loose handling and indistinct forms. Yet the artists saw the criticism as a badge of honor, and subsequently called themselves “Impressionists” after the painting’s title, even though the name was first used derisively.
Monet found subjects in his immediate surroundings, as he painted the people and places he knew best. His first wife, Camille, and his second wife, Alice, frequently served as models. His landscapes chart journeys around the north of France and to London, where he escaped the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71. Returning to France, Monet moved first to Argenteuil, just fifteen minutes from Paris by train, then west to Vétheuil, Poissy, and finally to the more rural Giverny in 1883. His homes and gardens became gathering places for friends, including Manet and Renoir, who often painted alongside their host. Yet Monet’s paintings cast a surprisingly objective eye on these scenes, which include few signs of domestic relations.”
Read more about MONET HERE.

CLICK HERE to see a video of Monet and his Giverny Gardens

Camille Pissarro

While there are many valid points of view regarding which impressionist painter, after Monet had the greatest influence on the public, there is virtually no arguement on which artist had the greatest impact on his fellow painters. Camille Pissarro undisputedly claims that honor. In addition to being a confidant of Monet and Renoir, with whom he often painted, Pissarro was older than the rest of his colleages. This “natural seniority” coupled with his prodigiou talent, made him a “Father Figure” for many of the younger impressionists.

If we consider some of the most influential of the impressionists as “pillars” of the movement – Camille Pissarro was definitely one.

The Guggenheim Museum “paints” the greater detail…

Jacob’Abraham’Camille Pissarro was born on July 10, 1830, to French Jewish parents on the West Indies island of Saint Thomas. Sent to boarding school in France, he returned after six years to work in his parents’ store. Pissarro abandoned this comfortable bourgeois existence at the age of twenty-two, when he left for Caracas with Danish painter Fritz Melbye, who became his first serious artistic influence.

After returning briefly to Saint Thomas, Pissarro left in 1855 for Paris, where he studied at various academic institutions (including the École des Beaux-Arts and Académie Suisse) and under a succession of masters, such as Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, and Charles-François Daubigny. Corot is often considered Pissarro’s most important early influence; Pissarro listed himself as Corot’s pupil in the catalogues to the 1864 and 1865 Paris Salons. While Pissarro was accepted to show at the official Salon throughout the 1860s, in 1863 he participated with Edouard Manet, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and others in the historic Salon des Refusés. At the close of the decade, he moved to Louveciennes (near the Seine, twenty miles from Paris). Working in close proximity with Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley, he began to revise his method of landscape painting, privileging the role of color in his expression of natural phenomena and employing smaller patches of paint. This artistic circle was dispersed by the Franco-Prussian War, which Pissarro fled by moving to London in 1870–71. There he met Paul Durand-Ruel, the Parisian dealer who would become an ardent supporter of Pissarro and his fellow Impressionists. Pissarro participated in his last official Salon in 1870.

The years after Pissarro’s return to France were seminal ones. He settled in Pontoise, where he received young artists seeking advice, including Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. He took part in the first Impressionist exhibition in 1874. Pissarro—along with Edgar Degas, one of the Salon’s most passionate critics—was the only artist to show at all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions, the last of which took place in 1886.

Read more About  Impressionist icon Camille Pissarro HERE.

In this video there’s a selection of Pissarro’s Paintings.


Pierre Auguste Renoir

Another “pillar” of French Impressionism was Pierre Auguste Renoir. His painting “The Boating Party” must certainly rival any of Monet’s classics, as the most reproduced impressionist image. At least as far as the general public are concerned. Renoir began his artistic career as a porcelian painter. Later he was introduced to Monet and Sisley. This, of course, widened his horizons, as well as providing artistic companionship.

England’s National Gallery fills in the details:

“Renoir was born in Limoges in south-west France, where he began work as a painter on porcelain. He moved to Paris, joining the studio of the fashionable painter Charles Gleyre in around 1861-2. Courbet influenced the young Renoir. In Paris he encountered other painters, notably Monet and Sisley, who were later to become Impressionists. In 1869 he and Monet worked together sketching on the Seine, and Renoir began to use lighter colours.

Around the 1880s Renoir travelled abroad, visiting Italy, Holland, Spain, England, Germany and North Africa. He deeply admired works by Raphael, Velázquez, and Rubens, and the latter’s influence may be seen in his works.”

Learn more about the Impressionist Painting of Renoir HERE.

In this video you’ll see more of the Painting of Auguste Renoir.

Alfred Sisley

There are three terrible fates for any artist. To die young. To die in poverty. To die without due recognition. Sadly, this was the fate of Alfred Sisley. Doubly sad, as his Artistic stature was on the same level as Monet and Renoir.

Born in France of Wealthy English parents, Alfred Sisley’s initial “career path” was in the World of business. He was expected to follow in the family silk business. However, fate, in the robes of art, had another destiny for Sisley. After four years of business school in London, he returned to paris, and began to paint. After meeting Monet and Renoir, and discovering their common ideals, one would assume that as one of the primary “pillars” of Impressionism that the future would bode well for Sisley. Unlike many of his contemporaries who lived a meger material existance, the allowance Sisley received from his wealthy parents removed his material concerns.

Until the Franco-prussian war began. His family’s business was one of the first financial casualities. Sisley’s allowance was the second. From that day on Sisley led a hand to mouth existence. Often forced to beg his colleagaues to buy a painting so he could eat and pay the rent.

More of the Talent and Trials of Alfred Sisley from Wikipedia:

“For the remainder of his life he would live in poverty, as his paintings did not rise significantly in monetary value until after his death. Occasionally, however, Sisley would be backed by patrons; and this allowed him, among other things, to make a few brief trips to Britain.

The first of these occurred in 1874 after the first independent Impressionist exhibition. The result of a few months spent near London was a series of nearly twenty paintings of the Upper Thames near Molesey, which was later described by art historian Kenneth Clark as “a perfect moment of Impressionism.”

Until 1880, Sisley lived and worked in the country west of Paris; then he and his family moved to a small village near Moret-sur-Loing, close to the forest of Fontainebleau, where the painters of the Barbizon school had worked earlier in the century. Here, as art historian Anne Poulet has said, “the gentle landscapes with their constantly changing atmosphere were perfectly attuned to his talents. Unlike Monet, he never sought the drama of the rampaging ocean or the brilliantly colored scenery of the Côte d’Azur.”

In 1881 Sisley made a second brief voyage to Britain.

In 1897 Sisley and his partner visited Britain again, and were finally married in Cardiff Register Office on 5 August.They stayed at Penarth, where Sisley painted at least six oils of the sea and the cliffs. In mid-August they moved to the Osborne Hotel at Langland Bay on the Gower Peninsula, where he produced at least eleven oil paintings in and around Langland Bay and Rotherslade Bay (then called Lady’s Cove). They returned to France in October. This was Sisley’s last voyage to his ancestral homeland. The National Museum Cardiff possesses two of his oil paintings of Penarth and Langland.

The following year Sisley applied for French citizenship, but was refused. A second application was made and supported by a police report, but illness intervened, and Sisley remained British till his death.

The painter died on 29 January 1899 in Moret-sur-Loing at the age of 59, a few months after the death of his wife.”

Learn more about the life of Alfred Sisley, the “English” Impressionist –  HERE.

Enjoy the  Images of Alfred Sisley  in this video.

Edgar Degas

Not as famous in the popular imagination as the Impressionist Painters I’ve previously mentioned, Edgar Degas did make a substantial contribution to Impressionism. Although he shared the group’s ideals – he hated the term. And preferred to label himself a “Realist.” Whatever the label, Degas’ ability to introduce classical influences in his work, while advancing the porinciples of Impressionism, is remarkable to say the least. continues the Degas Story:

“Edgar Degas was born Hilaire-Germain-Edgar de Gas on July 19, 1834, in Paris, France. His father, Auguste, was a banker, and his mother, Celestine, an American from New Orleans. Their family were members of the middle class with nobler pretensions. For many years the Degas family spelled their name “de Gas”; the preposition “de” suggesting a land-owning aristocratic background which they did not actually have. As an adult, Edgar Degas reverted back to the original spelling. Degas came from a very musical household; his mother was an amateur opera singer and his father occasionally arranged for musicians to give recitals in their home. Degas attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, a prestigious and rigorous boys’ secondary school where he received a classical education.

Degas also displayed a remarkable skill for drawing and painting as a child, a talent encouraged by his father, who was a knowledgeable art lover. In 1853 at the age of 18, Degas received permission to “copy” at the Louvre in Paris. (During the 19th century, aspiring artists developed their technique by attempting to replicate the works of the masters.) Degas produced several impressive copies of Raphael as well as studying the work of more contemporary painters such as Ingres and Delacroix. In 1855 he gained admission into the Ecole Des Beaux-Art in Paris. However, after only one year of study, Degas left school to spend three years traveling, painting and studying in Italy. He painted painstaking copies of the works of the great Italian renaissance painters Michelangelo and da Vinci, developing a reverence for classical linearity that remained a distinguishing feature of even his most modern paintings.

Upon returning to Paris in 1859, Degas set out to make a name for himself as a painter. Taking a traditional approach, he painted large portraits of family members and grand historical scenes such as The Daughter of Jephtha, Semiramis Building Babylon and Scene of War in the Middle Ages. Degas submitted these works to the all-powerful Salon, a group of French artists and teachers who presided over public exhibitions. It had very rigid and conventional ideas of beauty and proper artistic form, and received Degas’ paintings with measured indifference. In 1862, Degas met fellow painter Edouard Manet at the Louvre, and the pair quickly developed a friendly rivalry. Degas grew to share Manet’s disdain for the presiding art establishment as well as his belief that artists needed to turn to more modern techniques and subject matter.

By 1868, Degas had become a prominent member of a group of avant-garde artists including Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet and Alfred Sisley, who gathered frequently at the Café Guerbois to discuss ways in which artists could engage the modern world.

Learn more about Impressionist/Realist Painter Edgar Degas HERE.

You can enjoy some of  the most famous paintings of Edgar Degas  in this video.