Monday, March 30, 2015

Claude Monet, William Adolph-Bouguereau, Paris and Impressionism

Claude Monet, Champ d'avoine, Harn Museum of Art
"Without colors in tubes, there would be no Cezanne, no Monet, no Pissarro and no Impressionism," - Pierre-August Renoir.

Shortly before a trip to Ocala, Florida, I saw a flyer about a traveling exhibition at the Harn Museum of Art, in Gainesville.  The exhibit was "Monet and American Impressionism." As luck would have it, Gainesville was on the way to Ocala where I would be staying for few days.

Mary Cassatt, Enfant cueillant un fruit
The Harn exhibit represented Twenty-seven American Impressionist Artist. I'll feature a few of those works in this article and post more photos on my Facebook page over the next couple of weeks.

While at the Harn, I learned that Ocala also had an art museum. In 1987, The Appleton Museum of Art  opened  to house and display Arthur and Martha Appleton's extensive art collection. The museum was a gift from the Appleton's to the community of Ocala.

Originally, my plan was to write an article solely on the Harn exhibit. After visiting the Appleton, a new direction for this article seemed appropriate. Both Museums have large permanent collections plus ongoing visiting exhibits.

Joseph Rodefer De Camp, The Red Kimono

Being unfamiliar with the Appleton collection, what caught my immediate attention was the large number of paintings by William Adolph-Bouguereau and his students. There were numerous paintings by Pierre Auguste Cot, one by Emile Munier, and one by Elizabeth Jane Gardner, who later became Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau.

So there, we all were together in Florida - Monet and his followers, Bouguereau, and his students - and me enjoying the benefits of their experience. Most, if not all of the artists in the exhibits, were contemporaries and had lived, studied and worked in Paris at one time or another.

Although contemporaries, the 40 mile drive between the museums wasn't the only thing that separated these artistic leaders. Both were French and lived in Paris, and yet their styles and ideologies were vastly different. They would follow different paths. William Adolph-Bouguereau was a Romantic Realist, who followed the classical traditions of the time. Oscar Claude Monet, though classically trained, would help create a new way of seeing and painting, leading to the Impressionist movement.

W. Bouguereau, The Young Shepherdess
What fostered this great divergence in the art world? There were religious and political beliefs and a backlash to the authority of the strict world of art that existed at that time. This world or art had been cultivated and stable for centuries. It had developed processes and methods for working with and teaching the next generation how to create high art, as had been their legacy.

In addition, the 1800's was a time of significant change. The industrial revolution was going strong. New materials, processes and products were being created. Two things helped usher in the dawn of modern art. One was the ability to manufacture new synthetic dyes. This invention created an enormous demand for brilliant colors in the textile industry, and it crossed over into the art world. The other was the invention of a new form of packaging, the collapsible tin paint tube.

Today we are fortunate. We owe thanks to the American painter John Rand, who invented the tin paint tube in 1841. Now we can walk into a store and buy almost any color of premixed paint we desire.

Emile Munier,  Head of a Young Girl
Prior to 1841, mixing paint was labor intensive.  Other considerations were, paints dried fast; natural pigments were expensive, so most of the time artist produced paint in small batches. Paints were kept in pig's bladders and tied with a string. The bladders were not very portable and often burst. To remove the paint, the bladder had to be pricked with a pin. Closing the bladder wasn't easy, resulting in a lot of lost paint. Having pre-mixed paints in tubes changed all that. With portable, long-lasting, bold colors, painters were no longer held back. Painters could quickly go into the countryside and paint En Plein air.

Bouguereau and others held to the traditional practices of art, which had been handed down over the centuries. This style of art education required a long learning process. Traditional methods first focused on the fundamentals of drawing, the use of different techniques and materials, cast drawing, life drawing from the figure, and composition. And after several years, a student could begin to paint and copy from the old master. What had once been in favor would soon go into decline. As artists, we would feel the effects of this shift for the next century.

Emilio Sanchez Perrier,  A Tranquil River with a View
Impressionism originated with a small group of Paris-based artists. The first glimmers began with Courbet, then Manet until Monet became the symbol of the movement. Drastically changing the techniques and processes of the time.

Instead of adhering to the centuries-old process of layering in monochrome paint or grisaille, then glazing with expensive pigment, painters began to paint in a more direct method. Earth colors were being banished from palettes. Canvas's were left white rather than the traditional toned canvas. Black began to disappear from palettes. Paintings were more pastel and high key, with lots of paints everywhere, even in the shadows. In an effort to capture the essence of a landscape or subject before them, the artist made dabs of paint with short, thick strokes.

Willard Leroy Metcalf, Giverny
With the upheavals that began to occur in the art world of Paris, Impressionism was about more than just a tube of paint. There was a rather large backlash. Indeed, it was the time of throwing out of the baby with the bath water. The academic art background became scorned, and an academic art education was difficult to pursue.

Coming full circle, we live in a world where both an academic art education and the freedom of expression exist. This blending seems to be happening more today. Relatively speaking, the art world is seeing a resurgence of atelier based art schools teaching the principles and practices of traditional art educations.

In previous articles, I have written various articles about atelier or traditional education and artists, including, the Gage Academy of ArtRobert Liberace and Olena Babak. Also, I've written an article on Colleen Barry, a talented artist and teacher from the Grand Central Atelier in New York, for the Portrait Society of America (April 2015).

Elizabeth Jane Gardner, Daphnis and Chloe
Monet created a new path but knew the value of the fundamentals.....

Claude Monet:  “…learn to draw: that’s where most of you (his pupils) are falling down today… …draw with all your might; you can never learn too much. However, don’t neglect painting, go to the country from time to time and make studies and, above all, develop them…” (Monet is quoting here Troyon, famous Barbizon painter and Monet’s teacher in Paris)*

A day at an art museum can transport you anywhere even to France and back. Florida seems to have an abundance of museums. While doing my research for this article, more Florida museums popped up. One reader wrote to tell me of the Morse Museum in Orlando; that houses the most comprehensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany*. Another reader wrote to tell me of a special exhibition "Monet to Matisse" at the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg. For anyone with the time and desire, Florida has an abundance of museum's to see.

W.M. Chase, A Long Island Lake

No photos were allowed at either exhibit. All photos for the article are sourced from the Internet.

Thanks for joining me, and please continue to send me your comments.  I have been receiving emails, comments on the blog and on Facebook. I enjoy receiving your ideas, questions, and input. It's great to be bringing this to you. If you like this article please feel free to share this post with your friends or on Facebook.

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* source, famous French people life quotes: his letter to the famous French painter Boudin, 1859; as quoted in “Discovering Art, – The life time and work of the World’s greatest Artists, MONET”; K.E. Sullivan, Brockhamptonpress, London 2004, p. 11.

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