Author: artiste

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Musée Rodin 

With dark clouds filling the skies, spending the afternoon in the Hôtel Biron or as it is now known, the Rodin Museum was a perfect choice.  The museum was opened in 1919 at the Hôtel Biron, the studio and residence where Rodin lived and worked.  It holds more than 6,000 sculptures and 7,000 works on paper.  As we approached the museum we saw the golden dome of Napoleon’s Tomb and The Thinker from the manicured side garden.

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Dome of Napoleon’s Tomb

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The Thinker (1879-1889)

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Auguste Rodin 1840 -1917

Rodin was a french sculptor who changed the course 19th century art and is generally considered to be the father of modern sculpture.  As one can see in his early work, he started out in a more traditional 19th century fashion, but soon developed his own creative interpretation of the human form.  

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His more expressive and original work was not initially well received since his unique rendering of the surface textures were deeply pocketed, complex, and differed from the smooth and finely detailed surfaces of his contemporaries.  He also rejected the mythological and allegorical themes that were prevalent during his time.  

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He sculpted the human form with realism, individuality, physicality, and emotion.  He followed his own genius not reacting to public criticism and by 1900 he was considered a world-renown artist with his work in many wealthy private collections in Europe and the United States.  

Early in his career, 1875,  Rodin visited Italy for two months where he was inspired by the work of Michelangelo and Donatello.  By going back to the renaissance masters he freed himself from the established 19th century French Academic style.  In 1880 he received a commission to create two monumental bronze doors for a planned museum of decorative arts.  Over the next four years he surpassed his initial inspiration based on Andrea Pisano’s bronze Baptistry doors in Florence to create an elaborate masterpiece, The Gates of Hell.  The doors were never finished and the museum was never built.  However, they are a remarkable achievement and from them other freestanding sculptures, such as, The Thinker and The Kiss were created.

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The Gates of Hell, (1980-1984)

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The Gates of Hell (detail)

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The Gates of Hell (cast of detail)

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The Kiss (1889)

In 1883 Rodin met 18-year old Camille Claudel and began a passionate and tumultuous relationship that influenced each artistically.  Claudel was both his model and a talented sculptor.  She assisted him on his commissions for The Thinker, The Burghers of Calais, and Balzac.

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Camille Claudel (1864 – 1943)

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The Burghers of Calais (1884ca – 1889 detail)

Rodin was commissioned by the mayor of Calais to create a sculpture commemorating the six townspeople who offered their lives to save their fellow citizens of Calais during the Hundred Year War.  Instead of representing the men allegorically, Rodin created six distinct psychological studies of the emotions each man possessed going to his death.  It has been regarded as, “the greatest piece of sculpture of the 19th century, perhaps, indeed, the greatest since Michelangelo” – art historian Kenneth Clark.  

His sculpture of the writer Balzac was also criticized when shown.  Rodin chose not to show him with his usual attributes but as an assemblage of two elements, the expressively modeled head resembling Balzac on top of a separate more abstract dressing gown.  This revolutionary monument was not as much a portrait but a powerful evocation of the visionary genius whose gaze dominated the world at that time.  The sculpture was not well received and when unveiled the commission was cancelled and the sculpture was never cast in his lifetime.

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Balzac (1891-1898)

Aside from changing the course of art in the late 19th century, Rodin is credited for restoring sculpture to it’s ancient role. This role was to capture and freeze the innate forces of life – the beauty and pathos of the human spirit.  By doing this he freed sculpture from it’s pedantic traditional vision and allowed for experimentation that would come later in the 20th century. Some of the artists who were influenced by Rodin are:  Antoine Bourdelle, Constantin Brancusi, Astride Maillol, Alexander Archipenko, Jacques Lipchitz, Pablo Picasso, and Henry Moore.

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To learn more about the life of Rodin, you can go to the museum website:

http://www.musee-rodin.fr

The Treachery of Images – René Magritte

Centre Pompidou, Paris

October 2016

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The Treachery of Images, 1928

We approached the Centre Pompidou to find hundreds of people waiting in the rain for this show.   We ducked into a cafe to wait it out over a few glasses of good vin rouge.  Finally, we realized that the line was not going down and that we had better come back the next day.  To our surprise the lines were just as long the following day, so we cued up. The show proved to be well worth the wait. 

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The Lovers 1928

img_3372Les Memoires d’un Sainte, 1960 

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Time Transfixed, 1938

The exhibition was a gathering of hundreds of paintings, drawings, and archival documents, which were collected from public and private collections to explore the surrealistic work of the Belgian artist, René Magritte (1898-1967).  He is know for his witty and thought provoking imagery, which depicts ordinary objects in an unusual context.  By doing so he sought to challenge the viewer’s preconditioned perceptions of reality.  The iconic example of this concept is seen in his painting, The Treachery of Images, 1928 where he painted a pipe and then under it wrote the words, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”).  It seems a contridiction but actually is true since it is a painting and not a real pipe. His work became more popular in the 1960’s and has influenced pop, minimalist and conceptual art.  Some of the contemporary American artists who have been inspired by his work are John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol.

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Les Grands Rendez-Vous, 1947

To learn more about the exhibit and see a short video, please click on this link  https://www.centrepompidou.fr/id/c65EMjd/r45MbXB/fr

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I have just returned from a quick trip to Paris.  The city was ablaze in autumn colors.  The trees along the Seine, the Luxembourg Gardens, and the Tuileries were full of green, red, orange, and pale yellow leaves that fullered down in the wind and crunched underfoot.  It was the first time that I have seen Paris in the Fall and it was spectacular.

You can’t visit Paris without taking in the art.  My favorite exhibitions this time were Mexique 1900 – 1950 at the Grand Palais, Magritte, the Treachery of Images at the Centre Pompidou, and The newly renovated Rodin Museum.

Mexique 1900 – 1950, the Grand Palais

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Woman at a Well, Diego Rivera, 1913

The exhibit focused on the vibrant and creative history of Mexican art from the beginning of the 20th century.   It showed the influence of the expatriate Mexicans in Paris in the 20’s who were exposed to and contributed to Impressionism, Cubism, Expressionism, and the emerging Modern movement.  It also showed the effect of the Mexican Revolution on their art and how upon returning from Europe they wanted to forge a new identity based on their indigenous past.  The show addresses the work of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Orozco, Sequeiros, Tamayo, Zuniga, the Muralists, the Surrealists, and the Modernists.

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David Alfaro Siqueiros.1947.

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The Two Fridas, Frida Kahlo, 1939

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Surrealist Boat Sculpture by Leonora Carrington 

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Madame Seurat (Artist’s Mother) 1882-83

Though Georges Seurat is most often remembered as the inventor of Pointillism, the intricate color system that produced Bather’s at Asnières and A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, his exquisite and little known drawings are considered among his greatest achievements.  They are distinctive because of his unique method of capturing a serene luminosity of tones by using black contè crayon on Michallet, a handmade french paper.  It can also be assumed that in his mastery of tonal values and the stippled appearance of the drawings a matrix was laid for the subsequent pointillist technique that was perfected in La Grande Jatte.

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Mendiant Hindou (Indian Beggar), ca 1878
Sold $3,978,591 – Sotheby’s London, February 6, 2014 (Lot 00165)

The drawing above was recently purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles at Sotheby’s London for $3,978,591.  It far exceeded the pre-sale estimate of $130,512 – $195,768.  The Getty has no paintings by Seurat but now has four significant drawings made by Seurat. The Indian Beggar is one of his first life drawings and marks a formidable departure from his early classical style as evidenced by the abandonment of the traditional Beaux-Arts contour lines.  It was executed during his later years of formal education with Justin Lequien when he had moved from drawing endless plaster casts to live models.  The sensitive draughtsmanship in the handling of shadows on the aging folds of skin imbue it with a powerful and original vitality. 

Georges Seurat Aman-Jean, 1882–83 Conté crayon on paper 24 1/2 x 18 3/4" (62.2 x 47.6 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960 (61.101.16)

Portrait of Edmond Aman-Jean, 1882-83
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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Detail of Watermark on Michallet Paper

Seurat’s drawings possess a mystical aura combining intimacy and proximity.  He called his technique “irradiation” since it avoided distinct lines and dealt with the subtlety and nuance of light and shadow.  Rather than drawing lines he blackened entire areas of the paper establishing infinite gradations of tone due to the application of the crayon on the textured weave of the Michallet, (see detail above).  This produced a range of shades between the whiteness of the untouched paper and the absolute black of the contè crayon.  In Edmond Aman-Jean we see how nothing is white except the collar and nothing is black except his hair and the jacket – everything else is shaded.  The crayon touches the paper lightly in some places so that the gridded weave of the Michallet creates a luminous stippling effect, which gives it a remarkable atmospheric quality.

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Studies for Bathers at Asnieres, 1884

While the two drawings above served as studies for his large monumental paintings, the majority were done in their own right, constituting a separate body of work.  In some of these we can see where Seurat nearly pushed through to complete abstraction.  For example, in Child in White (1883-84) and Labourage (1882-83) the forms dissolve and are barely recognizable. At times he seems to explore and play with the ambiguity inherent in the convention of representational art.  The contre-jour effect of the silhouetted figures against the setting sun in Labourage float and dissolve in the picture space as does the figure in Child in White.  

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Child in White (1883-83) and Labourage (1882-82)
Musee d’Orsay, Paris France

Seurat moves towards abstraction in that he simplifies the forms in a manner that is both realistic and representational.  He does this by emphasizing the inherent geometric form and underlying structure of the objects and figures.  Another key to this “representational abstraction”  is the way he controls and defines light on the subjects.  It appears that most of his subjects were lit by a strong light emanating from one source, as seen in Madame Seurat.  

As an example of part of his market, are two more recent auction sales of his drawings, Liseur and L’Arroseur .

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Liseur (1881)
Sold $1,230,986 –  Sotheby’s London (Lot 00009) June 14, 2015

 

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L’Arrosuer (1883)
Sold $2,965,000 –  Sotheby’s New York (Lot 00030)

The Museum of Modern Art in New York featured an exhibition of Seurat’s drawings in 2007-08. There is an interesting interactive site where you can further explore his drawings and see his sketchbooks and the conservation work that was done on the drawings.  

Museum of Modern Art 2007-08 Exhibition Drawings of Georges Seurat

 

 

 

 

 

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Model from the Back by Georges Seurat, 1886

Georges Seurat went beyond the Impressionists by being among the first artists to make a systematic and devoted use of color theory. In 1886 the art critic Félix Fénéon named this style Neo-Impressionism in reference to the work of Seurat, Paul Signac, Maximillian Luce, and Camille Pissarro. Seurat called his new scientific and optically based style Chromo-Luminarism. It is better known today as Pointillism or Divisionism. Instead of blending colors together on his palette, he dabbed tiny strokes or “points” of pure color onto the canvas. When the colors were placed side by side, they would appear to blend when viewed from a distance, producing luminous, shimmering color effects through optical mixing. His work showed perfect perspective and well arranged geometric compositions.  His figures were proportioned classically based on Vitruvius with a Renaissance classicism inspired by Pierro della Francesca.  His themes portrayed the working class not the bourgeois of Claude Monet and the other Impressionists.  Thus he  returned to Gustave Courbet’s theme of social and collective meaning in painting.

Seurat was only thirty-one when he died, however he left behind an influential body of work. In addition to his seven monumental paintings, he left 40 smaller paintings and sketches, about 500 drawings, and several sketchbooks, which will be explored in Part 2.  Though a modest output in terms of quantity it shows his unique innovation and future influence on Fauvism and Cubism.  He also consequentially laid the foundation for 20th century Modernism as seen in the work of Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Miro, Albers, and Rivera.

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Bathers at Asnières, 1884 –The National Gallery, Washington DC

Bather’s at Asnières, (1884) is the first of Seurat’s seven monumental canvases and the culmination of his color theory research from 1881-1884. He drew contè studies (a mix of wax and graphite or charcoal) using live models and made small sketches on site to record the effects of light and atmosphere many of which have survived.  The final canvas was finished in his studio.  It is largely rendered in criss-cross brushstrokes, a technique known as balayé.  Seurat then re-touched the areas with dots of contrasting color.

Next, Seurat began working on Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte, which took him two years to complete and was based on countless drawings and over thirty oil sketches.  This was the the first painting to be done in Chromo-Luminarism.  It was exhibited at the the Eighth Impressionist Exhibition in May 1886 alongside the other Impressionist paintings.  In terms of scale, technique, and composition it caused a scandalous eruption within Impressionism.  However, it did establish him as the leader of the new avant-garde, Neo-Impressionism.

 

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Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte, 1884/86- 6’10” x 10’1″
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL

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Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte (detail)

Seurat spent his summers on the Normandy coast painting small marine paintings – Honfleur 1886, Port-en-Bessin 1888, Le Crotoy 1889, and Gravelines 1890.  In Winter he would lock himself away in his garret studio in Paris and work on the large figure paintings to show in Spring.  His last major works depict the Parisian nightlife, models and the circus.  He had a studio next to Signac’s on the Boulevard de Clichy in Montmartre, where he was surrounded by artists such as Puvis de Chavannes, Degas, Gaugin, Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec.

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Hospice and Lighthouse at Honfleur, 1886

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Les Poseuses, 1888-Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, PA

In 1887 Seurat began working on Les Poseuses, which was the last of the seven grand scale compositions.  Although he was young when he died, he left behind an influential body of work that proved to have a lasting impact on the course of art.  This was because he was one of the first artists to make a systematic use of the newly developed color theories and his technical innovations influenced many artists during his time and after.  Europe at that time was in a degree of industrial and scientific change and through his art he reflected his times and the social and economic shift that was taking place.

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Attelage Rural, c, 1883 6 1/4 x 9 3/4 in.
Sold: $1,190,114 – Christie’s London (lot 00013) February 4, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, by Georges Seurat, 1884-86 (detail)

Post-Impressionism was a dynamic French art movement that began after the last exhibition of the Impressionists in 1886.  It lasted until 1905 with the appearance of the Fauves who ushered in Modernism and the 20th century.  The movement evolved as a reaction to what the artists felt was lacking in Impressionism. It was a very fluid period, a time when artists lived together showing and sharing their work.  In this way they were stimulated by each other’s talent and vision. Although Paris was the center of the movement, some artists formed groups in Brittany and the South of France. They often started out in one style evolving into another and then yet another, always following their unique visions of what they saw and felt.Many distinct artistic styles developed which later proved to be the basis of the art that developed in the 20th century.

The art critic, Roger Fry, coined the term Post-Impressionism in 1910 when he described the artists who extended Impressionism while rejecting its limitations. During the 1880s some of the younger artists that were experimenting with Impressionism began to try different ways of interpreting line, form, color, and pattern. They were dissatisfied with the opticality of the Impressionist movement and wanted to find meaning and expression in their art.

Post-Impressionism was characterized by:

  • the use of vivid colors often unnatural or arbitrary
  • thick application of paint
  • real-life subject matter
  • distortion of forms for expression
  • emphasis on structure-geometric or color theory

The groups however followed two main orientations which went from the scientific color theory of Seurat’s Pointillism to the lush, colorful, and expressive work that was done by the Pont-Aven School artists such as Gauguin. The artists painting in Brittany developed into the schools of Syntheism, Cloisonnism, Les Nabis, and Symbolism. Those focusing on color theory wanted structure, order, and the optical effects created with color as found in the work of Paul Cézanne, Georges Seurat, and Paul Signac.  The other group from the art colony of Pont-Aven developed a lush, symbolic vision based on the subjective view of the artist. Having left Paris, they were looking for meaning and simplicity.Paul Gauguin, Emile Bernard, and Vincent van Gogh thus explored the concept of the painting as a personal window into the mind and soul of the artist, not just a window into the realistic world.This concept would later in the 20th century lead into Modern Art, German Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Feminist Art.

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Self Portrait by Vincent van Gogh, 1887

Paul Cézanne was the only artist who exhibited with the Impressionists. After a brief time in Paris, he went south to Aix-en-Provence where he painted for the rest of his life.  In his landscapes and still lifes he revolutionized painting by seeing reality in geometric planes. He introduced the concept of simultaneity, seeing an object from more than one point of view.  Along with many of the other Post- Impressionists he also altered the concept of the traditional picture space that had been the standard since the Renaissance. This original way of seeing later contributed to Cubism and Abstract Art.

Although there were two opposing stylistic trends developing, abstraction and expressionism, there was still a common element that was shared by all of the Post-Impressionists. It was the focus on abstract form and pattern in the application of paint to the canvas.  This can be seen in all the work that was introduced during this very innovative and formative time.

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Still Life with Seven Apples by Paul Cézanne, 1878

Following is a list of the Post-Impressionist groups and some of the main artists within those groups.

Neo-Impressionism-Pointillism-Divisionism

  • Georges Seurat
  • Paul Signac
  • Claude Pissarro
  • Henri-Edmond Cross
  • Charles Angrand
  • Maximilien Luce
  • Henri Matisse

Pont-Aven School- Syntheism-Cloisonnism

  • Paul Gauguin
  • Emile Bernard
  • Paul Sérusier
  • Charles Leval
  • Cuno Amiet
  • Louis Anquetin
  • Maurice Denis

Symbolism

  • Paul Gaugin
  • Odilon Redon
  • Gustave Moreau
  • James Whistler
  • Edvard Munch
  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Henri Rousseau
  • Puvis de Chavannes

Les Nabis

  • Maurice Denis
  • Paul Sérusier
  • Pierre Bonnard
  • Édouard Vuillard
  • Astrid Maillol
  • Paul Ransom
  • Ker-Xavier Roussel
  • Felix Vallotton

Other Notable Post-Impressionists

  • Paul Cézanne
  • Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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Au Lit: Le Baiser by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892
Sold Christie’s New York: November 9, 2015   $12,485,000.

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Impressionism

The Paris Project refers to the study of art and artists in Paris that I made during the summer of 2015.  My intent was to learn about the late nineteenth-century Parisian artists who lived in an interesting time and who took art from Impressionism into Modernism, they were the Post-Impressionists. Before we can do that though we must see the context from which they developed.

Most of us are familiar with both the iconic, light-filled landscapes of Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, and Camille Pissarro and the soft, intimate figurative paintings of Pierre-August Renoir, Berthe Morisot, and Mary Cassatt. They are some of the most noted Impressionists who rose to prominence during the 1870's to 1880's.  Their work is characterized by small, brushstrokes of pure color which when placed next to each other optically mix to produce an impression of well-observed light and color.

As an art movement, Impressionism rebelled against the Academie des Beaux-Arts that had dominated and dictated the standards of both content and style since it's formation in 1648.  However, the Impressionists' loose, colorful brushstrokes were more in the new tradition of J.M.W.Turner and Eugene Delacroix, than the Academie des Beaux-Arts.  

It was Claude Monet's painting, Impression, Sunrise that coined the term Impressionism when the art critic Louis Leroy derogatorily referred to the unfinished, sketchy style of the first show in1874 as an Exhibition of Impressionists.  The name Impressionism was not officially adopted until a few years later.

By painting en plein aire the Impressionists were able to go into the fields, meadows, and along the rivers to paint in natural light.  They could observe the changing effects of light on forms over time. The invention of metal tubes of paint and mobile painting easels facilitated painting outdoors.  In this way they differed from the Barbizon painters like Camille Corot and Jean-François Millet who sketched outdoors but still returned to their studios to paint. 

The Industrial Revolution brought the camera, which introduced new ways of composing the picture space.  The snapshot or partial view appeared and can be seen in the compositions of Edgar Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. 

The depiction of subjects changed from the traditional Academic standards to the more ordinary, everyday scenes. This was due to Gustave Courbet who earlier in the nineteenth-century led the movement towards Realism in painting and away from Academic Classicism. Later, Edouard Manet who did not participate in any of the Impressionist exhibitions shocked his critics by not idealizing his subject but instead showing realistic, common people. Traditionally, a nude was acceptable if it was idealized but his subjects were not idealized, they were real people This can be seen in his paintings, Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe and Olympia that show a nude woman picnicking with two clothed men in a forest and in Olympia, a recumbent, nude prostitute, not a mythical goddess as the title implies. Both paintings were painted in 1863, exhibited at the Salon des Refusés, and were very controversial because of the subjects and the sketchy, unfinished manner in which they were painted.

Another important current of the time was the influence of the Japanese woodcut prints, or ukiyo-e, which flooded into France and England after Japan opened trade relations with the West in 1853.  Japonisme offered a new aesthetic and a rebirth of printmaking in Paris.  The Japanese prints had elongated pictorial formulas, asymmetrical compositions, aerial perspectives, abstract elements of flat color, and purely decorative motifs.  The influence of these prints can be easily seen in the work of James Whistler, Claude Monet, James Tissot, Edgar Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec.  The theme of daily, quiet events in women's lives, a common Japanese theme, was adopted by Mary Cassatt and can be seen in both her paintings and prints. The influx of Japanese woodcut prints was a major influence and can be seen in the work of both the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. 

Thus in the eight Impressionist exhibitions in Paris, starting in 1874 to 1886, a new art movement was established. It revolted against the Academic traditions and introduced new methods of painting and observation. It built on aesthetic trends that developed during the last half of the nineteenth-century, the trends of natural observation, realism, and Japonisme. Since the Impressionists showed their work in independent galleries, not in the official French Academy's salon, these exhibitions also mark a turning point for art marketing in the modern era. 

Joann Dufau Slater

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Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet, 1872
Musee Marmottan Monet, Paris

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Olympia by Edouard Manet, 1863
Musee d'Orsay, Paris

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Maternal Caress by Mary Cassatt, 1891
Metropolitan Museum of Art