Degas was closest to Renoir in the impressionist’s circle, for both favoured the animated Parisian life of their day as a motif in their paintings. Degas did not attend Gleyre’s studio; most likely he first met the future impressionists at the Café Guerbois. He started his apprenticeship in 1853 at the studio of Louis-Ernest Barrias and, beginning in 1854, studied under Louis Lamothe, who revered Ingres above all others, and transmitted his adoration for this master to Edgar Degas. Starting in 1854 Degas travelled frequently to Italy: first to Naples, where he made the acquaintance of his numerous cousins, and then to Rome and Florence, where he copied tirelessly from the Old Masters. His drawings and sketches already revealed very clear preferences: Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Mantegna, but also Benozzo Gozzoli, Ghirlandaio, Titian, Fra Angelico, Uccello, and Botticelli. During the 1860s and 1870s he became a painter of racecourses, horses and jockeys. His fabulous painter’s memory retained the particularities of movement of horses wherever he saw them. After his first rather complex compositions depicting racecourses, Degas learned the art of translating the nobility and elegance of horses, their nervous movements, and the formal beauty of their musculature. Around the middle of the 1860s Degas made yet another discovery. In 1866 he painted his first composition with ballet as a subject, Mademoiselle Fiocre dans le ballet de la Source (Mademoiselle Fiocre in the Ballet ‘The Spring’) (New York, Brooklyn Museum). Degas had always been a devotee of the theatre, but from now on it would become more and more the focus of his art. Degas’ first painting devoted solely to the ballet was Le Foyer de la danse à l’Opéra de la rue Le Peletier (The Dancing Anteroom at the Opera on Rue Le Peletier) (Paris, Musée d’Orsay). In a carefully constructed composition, with groups of figures balancing one another to the left and the right, each ballet dancer is involved in her own activity, each one is moving in a separate manner from the others. Extended observation and an immense number of sketches were essential to executing such a task. This is why Degas moved from the theatre on to the rehearsal halls, where the dancers practised and took their lessons. This was how Degas arrived at the second sphere of that immediate, everyday life that was to interest him. The ballet would remain his passion until the end of his days.
“Father Pissarro”, as his friends liked to call him, was the most restrained of the artists of the Impressionist movement. Perhaps it was his age, being older than his fellow artists Monet, Sisley, Bazille, and Renoir, or rather his maturity, which resulted in his works having such serene and sober subjects and compositions. A man of simple tastes, he enjoyed painting peasants going about their daily lives. However, Pissarro owes his belated fame to his urban landscapes, which he treated with the same passion he used to paint beautiful stormy skies and frost-whitened mornings.
A painter of the Impressionist movement, Alfred Sisley was born on October 30th 1839 in Paris but was of British origin. He died on January 29th 1899 in Moret-sur-Loing. Growing up in a musical family, he chose to pursue painting rather than the field of business. In 1862 he enrolled in Gleyre’s studio where he encountered Renoir, Monet, and Bazille. The four friends left their master’s studio in March 1863 to work outdoors, setting their easels to paint the forest scenes of Fontainebleau. Sisley tirelessly chose the sky and water as subjects for his paintings, animated as they were by the changing reflections of light, for his landscapes of the regions surrounding Paris, Louveciennes, and Marly-le-Roi. This was in keeping with the painting styles of Constable, Bonington, and Turnet. Even if he had been influenced by Monet’s work at some point, Sisley drew away from his friend’s style due to his own desire for his work to follow the structure of forms. Sensitive to the changing seasons, he liked to portray spring with its blooming orchards, but it was the wintry and snowy countryside which Sisley was particularly attracted to. His reserved temperament preferred mystery and silence to the splendour of Renoir’s sunny landscapes.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born in Limoges on 25 February 1841. In 1854, the boy’s parents took him from school and found a place for him in the Lévy brothers’ workshop, where he was to learn to paint porcelain. Renoir’s younger brother Edmond had this to say this about the move: “From what he drew in charcoal on the walls, they concluded that he had the ability for an artist’s profession. That was how our parents came to put him to learn the trade of porcelain painter.” One of the Lévys’ workers, Emile Laporte, painted in oils in his spare time. He suggested Renoir makes use of his canvases and paints. This offer resulted in the appearance of the first painting by the future impressionist. In 1862 Renoir passed the examinations and entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and, simultaneously, one of the independent studios, where instruction was given by Charles Gleyre, a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The second, perhaps even the first, great event of this period in Renoir’s life was his meeting, in Gleyre’s studio, with those who were to become his best friends for the rest of his days and who shared his ideas about art. Much later, when he was already a mature artist, Renoir had the opportunity to see works by Rembrandt in Holland, Velázquez, Goya and El Greco in Spain, and Raphael in Italy. However, Renoir lived and breathed ideas of a new kind of art. He always found his inspirations in the Louvre. “For me, in the Gleyre era, the Louvre was Delacroix,” he confessed to Jean. For Renoir, the First Impressionist Exhibition was the moment his vision of art and the artist was affirmed. This period in Renoir’s life was marked by one further significant event. In 1873 he moved to Montmartre, to the house at 35 Rue Saint-Georges, where he lived until 1884. Renoir remained loyal to Montmartre for the rest of his life. Here he found his “plein-air” subjects, his models and even his family. It was in the 1870s that Renoir acquired the friends who would stay with him for the remainder of his days. One of them was the art-dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who began to buy his paintings in 1872. In summer, Renoir continued to paint a great deal outdoors together with Monet. He would travel out to Argenteuil, where Monet rented a house for his family. Edouard Manet sometimes worked with them too. In 1877, at the Third Impressionist Exhibition, Renoir presented a panorama of over twenty paintings. They included landscapes created in Paris, on the Seine, outside the city and in Claude Monet’s garden; studies of women’s heads and bouquets of flowers; portraits of Sisley, the actress Jeanne Samary, the writer Alphonse Daudet and the politician Spuller; and also The Swing and The Ball at the Moulin de la Galette. Finally, in the 1880s Renoir hit a “winning streak”. He was commissioned by rich financiers, the owner of the Grands Magasins du Louvre and Senator Goujon. His paintings were exhibited in London and Brussels, as well as at the Seventh International Exhibition held at Georges Petit’s in Paris in 1886. In a letter to Durand-Ruel, then in New York, Renoir wrote: “The Petit exhibition has opened and is not doing badly, so they say. After all, it’s so hard to judge about yourself. I think I have managed to take a step forward towards public respect. A small step, but even that is something.”
Whilst Impressionism marked the first steps toward modern painting by revolutionising an artistic medium stifled by academic conventions, Post-Impressionism, even more revolutionary, completely liberated colour and opened it to new, unknown horizons. Anchored in his epoch, relying on the new chromatic studies of Michel Eugène Chevreul, Georges Seurat transcribed the chemist’s theory of colours into tiny points that created an entire image. With his heavy strokes, Van Gogh illustrated the midday sun, whilst Cézanne renounced perspective. Rich in its variety and in the singularity of its artists, Post-Impressionism was a passage taken by all the well-known figures of 20th century painting - it is here presented, for the great pleasure of the reader, by Nathalia Brodskaïa.
Naive art first became popular at the end of the 19th century. Until that time, this form of expression, created by untrained artists and characterised by spontaneity and simplicity, enjoyed little recognition from professional artists and art critics. Influenced by primitive arts, naive painting is distinguished by the fluidity of its lines, vivacity, and joyful colours, as well as by its rather clean-cut, simple shapes. Naive art counts among it artists: Henri Rousseau, Séraphine de Senlis, André Bauchant, and Camille Bombois. This movement has also found adherents abroad, including such prominent artists as Joan Miró, Guido Vedovato, Niko Pirosmani, and Ivan Generalic.
“I paint what I see and not what it pleases others to see.” What other words than these of Édouard Manet, seemingly so different from the sentiments of Monet or Renoir, could best define the Impressionist movement? Without a doubt, this singularity was explained when, shortly before his death, Claude Monet wrote: “I remain sorry to have been the cause of the name given to a group the majority of which did not have anything Impressionist.” In this work, Nathalia Brodskaïa examines the contradictions of this late 19th-century movement through the paradox of a group who, while forming a coherent ensemble, favoured the affirmation of artistic individuals. Between academic art and the birth of modern, non-figurative painting, the road to recognition was long. Analysing the founding elements of the movement, the author follows, through the works of each of the artists, how the demand for individuality gave rise to modern painting.
Born at the dawn of the 20th century, Fauvism burst onto the artistic scene at the 1905 Salon d'Automne with great controversy by throwing bright, vibrant colours in the face of artistic convention. Fuelled by change, artists like Matisse, Derain, and Vlaminck searched for a new chromatic language by using colour out of its habitual context. Freed from the strict technique advocated by the École des Beaux-Arts, they used blocky colours as their main resource, saturating their stunning paintings. The author invites us to experience this vivid artistic evolution that, although encompassing a short amount of time, left its mark on the path to modernity.
Symbolism appeared in France and Europe between the 1880s and the beginning of the 20th century. The Symbolists, fascinated with ancient mythology, attempted to escape the reign of rational thought imposed by science. They wished to transcend the world of the visible and the rational in order to attain the world of pure thought, constantly flirting with the limits of the unconscious. The French Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, the Belgians Fernand Khnopff and Félicien Rops, the English Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the Dutch Jan Toorop are the most representative artists of the movement.
Der Symbolismus ist eine Erscheinung des Fin-de-Siècle, der seinen Anfang in den 1880er Jahren in Frankreich nahm und zu Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts auch im übrigen Europa Fuß fasste. Die von der antiken Mythologie faszinierten Symbolisten versuchten, sich der von der Wissenschaft etablierten Herrschaft der Rationalität zu entziehen. Sie wollten die sichtbare Welt und die Vernunft überwinden, um zur Welt des reinen Denkens und der Ästhetik, ja sogar zum Unterbewusstsein, vorzudringen. Die Franzosen Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, die Belgier Fernand Khnopff und Félicien Rops, die Engländer Edward Burne-Jones und Dante Gabriel Rossetti sowie der Holländer Jan Toorop sind die herausragenden Repräsentanten dieser Kunstrichtung.