Impressionism or Liberty in Painting
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Impressionism or Liberty in Painting

With Impressionism a new technique was born that convulsed Academism.

Impressionism propagated like an unexpected event and was a true revolution, placing this style at the origins of Contemporary Art. This revolution and the reason for the violent reactions it caused, are not to be found  in material facts (a new technique convulsing Academism) but rather in the moral and social domains.

It is in the conception itself of the work of art, in the artists relationships with society, in the meaning of this work compared with its creators, that we have to find the new spirit incarnated by Impressionism. Since this style knew how to give a concrete form to a still latent aspiration, Impressionism seems to mean being aware, it is even a seizure of power: the assertion by the artists of their liberty.  This right to liberty, recognized and admitted in its priciple as for artistic creation, was not effective yet and the artists remained submitted to habits that were constraints limiting the efflorescence of their personality.

The French Revolution granting everyone with the liberty of choosing their profession and religion, had to unavoidably lead the artists to the right of choosing a technique and invent individual means of expression. The artist's social position was therefore very much modified. Until then, he had always worked according to orders, that is the Church's, the Court's or local lord's needs. He consequently tried to satisfy the desires and tastes of the social class that enabled him to make a living, without giving up introducing the touch of his own personality. 

As from Romanticism, the artist, strong enough with his right to have his own feelings prevail, no longer took the tastes of his clientèle into account but expected the approval of the collectors that would turn sensitive to his way of expressing himself. The first Impressionist exposition in 1874 is not an isolated fact but the continuation of a series of displeasures tending to show the incompetency of official committees facing the birth of a new method of thinking and being.

Liberty was slowly acquired as from the beginning of the 19th century. Its most violent and characterized aspects as far as art is concerned occured only in the middle of this century. In 1848, the first exposition without  a jury opened and in 1863, Napoleon III showed liberalism by creating the "Salon des Refusés".  The collective events to which can be added Courbet's two individual expositions of 1855 and 1867 and Manet's in 1867 are true acts of independence and protest against the rigour and the fixed prejudice of the juries.

The whole history of Contemporary Art will then refer to Impressionism either by the development of its theories or by the suscited reactions. If this art expanded so much, it is because, despite appearances of unity, Impressionism was capable of gathering the most prestigious temperaments within a few years. Under other circumstances and in other periods, they would have been strongly opposed to one another. A social fact much more than an aesthetic event should be seen here. Many material details could have opposed them, their tastes, sensibility, but they were linked by the need to defend a certain conception of the role art should play, a dignity of the work and with a will for independence vis-à-vis conventions.

Courbet, Les Lutteurs, 1853.

Manet, le Chanteur Espagnol, 1860.

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Comments (13)

Thank you for this valuable information so well presented by you.

So we move from Romanticism to Liberty... and who said the art of Romance was dead? *Grins*

Ranked #1 in Art & Art History

Welcome back, Francois. A triumphant return to Factoidz.

Thanks for this comeback article, Francois. Very enlightening dialogue about another way of appreciating art.

A good discussion about impressionism in paintings Francois.

Indeed a great presentation of impressionism Francois, nice to see you back.

Thank you for the well-detailed lesson on arts...

Thak you all my friends. Your kind words are highly appreciated.

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Good ideas in impressionism. Thank you dear Francois. Voted up.

Very informative share and nicely written, too. Thanks

Impressive and well presented post. Thanks

Your articles always gives me the feeling of wanting to sit and enjoy reading them with a cup of hot tea. Excellent work. Tweeted, Google Buzzed, Facebook and voted up.