The Lasting Impression of Impressionism

“I am following Nature without being able to grasp her.”

That is a quote by Claude Monet and it gives a perfect example of what the Impressionism style is all about. Impressionist’s painters work to create a fleeting moment, an impression, within their artwork. The characteristics of Impressionism include sketchy loose brush strokes and lines with an emphasis on true depictions of light in its changing abilities. Impressionism is very beautiful to me because when I look at these paintings I feel in the moment with them; almost like the picture is within a transitory moment, as if it is moving. I feel like this is exactly what Claude Monet meant in his quote about not being able to grasp Nature- she is always growing and changing to the next moment and that is exactly what Impressionist’s tried to grasp within their paintings.

As I was researching Impressionist painters and their artwork I couldn’t help but to notice that there were many paintings of sailboats and the ocean. This caught my attention right away because I grew up in Juneau, Alaska and throughout my childhood I spent a lot of time on boats and the water. The sailboats especially caught my attention because my Grandfather owns a sailboat and he used to take us on weeklong sail boating trips in the summer time; it was always something my siblings and I looked forward to.  I remember early mornings with the sun coming up over the mountains with the misty ocean breeze bringing the sting of salt water in the air. It seems only fitting to use these stunning depictions of sailboats here.

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Impression, Sunrise

Claude Monet (1840-1926) painted Impression, Sunrise which led the way for Impressionist artists and is the painting that started this incredible style. Impression, Sunrise was painted, oil on canvas, in 1872 of the harbor of Le Havre in France. This painting shows a harbor at sunrise in a very creative way with loose brush strokes, broken lines, and pure unblended colors that leave the viewer imagining the real thing. You can see the first boat with a couple men and an oar, but as you look past them you can barely make out two more boats and a harbor, but not with as much detail. The dark lines on the bottom of the painting remind me more of fish swimming in the water instead of waves. The sun and sky are bright and warm feeling, just like a real sunrise would make you feel.  Monet captured this moment beautifully.

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Regatta at Argenteuil

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) painted Regatta at Argenteuil, oil on canvas, in 1874. This is another beautiful sailboat piece done in Impression style. Looking at the painting you can barely make out the sailboats and the sails look more apart of the sky than the boats. I love how Renoir blended the bottom of the boats into the water. The way he cast the shadows of the sails in the water with the ripples make it look like the boat is one with the water. The people on the shore seem to have more detail as you can make out their hats and heads from the rest of their bodies. Off to the mid left of the painting you can make out a couple in a little boat; you can see the man dressed in black and the woman in white, almost as if they are waving to the people on the shore- maybe I’m seeing things. I find it interesting that even in an Impression style painting you will still find flags painted at the top of the masts of the sailboats.

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Venice, Sailing Boat

Now let’s take a look at the great Impressionist, John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). He created Venice, Sailing Boat in watercolor, circa 1903. I love the raw way Singer captured this moment. This painting has a bit more detail, but it still leaves much to the imagination. The right side of the painting seems to have the most detail as the left has lots of globs of paint. It seems like the viewer is on a dock and there is a person walking from the left. I love the way the man on the bow of the boat looks like he was dripped into life in the painting. This painting is much darker than other Impressionist paintings; it reminds me of the many overcast days that I’ve spent in Juneau on a boat.

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Yacht Approaching the Coast

There are many styles to compare to Impressionism, but I am going to compare it to Romanticism. Before the Impressionist’s there were the Romantic’s and they strived to elicit emotions and feelings within their art.  Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was a famous Romantic artist. His piece, Yacht Approaching the Coast, was painted circa 1840-1845, oil on canvas. At first glance you may mistake this as an Impressionism piece of artwork, but it is not. If you look closer it is more refined and there aren’t dabs of colors and sketchy loose brush strokes as you would see in the Impression style. It is similar to the Impressionism style because of the blended bright colors, as if it is a transitory moment. It almost feels like there is a hole in the painting and everything in the picture is being pulled to the center. I think that Turner was trying to make the viewer feel the sense of the approach of the sailboat by creating this hole. To me this painting is very comparable to Monet’s Impression, Sunrise because the bright and dark colors offset each other within the paintings.

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Seascape in the Moonlight

Another Romantic artist, named Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), created a beautiful painting of a sailboat circa 1827/28, oil on canvas, and called it Seascape in the Moonlight. This is a very intricate piece of artwork. I love the way that Friedrich has the clouds being pulled to the left of the painting as if the wind is carrying them away to bring the moonlight out for the sailboat. There is something so beautiful about the way a boat feels out in the open water in the moonlight. I think that Friedrich captured this passing moment brilliantly. The bright white from the moonlight perfectly offsets the outline of the boat and brings the viewer into this moment so well.

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Sailing

Now let’s jump ahead to the here and now. Leonid Afremov (born 1955 – ) is an up and coming artist from Belarus. He uses a very creative style when creating art, he doesn’t use paint brushes – he uses a palette-knife. His work is very distinctive with the incredible colors that he uses and gentle style. Afremov created Sailing, which is oil on canvas, circa 2011. I chose this painting because it reminds me of Impressionism; from the bold blended colors to the strong fascination to capture a fleeting moment this piece of art is one to behold. Also because there looks like there are people in the boat, but they don’t have much detail to them. I love the way Afremov colored the sails to show the sunlight shining through them. It looks like a storm is coming on from the left of the painting with the darker colors and blues that he uses in the sky and water.

From Romanticism, Impressionism, to the here and now there is always something to contrast, but I think that comparing artwork is a great way to understand how it has evolved through the years. There will always be artist’s changing to create new styles, but they will be growing from something in the past. That is why it is good to understand the many styles of artwork. To wrap things up I just had to add a picture of my Grandfather’s sailboat, the Seabird. Here is a picture of the Seabird in front of my Grandparent’s house in Auke Bay, Alaska. Enjoy.

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The Seabird

 

References

deviantART. Sailing- Leonid Afremov. N.p, 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://leonidafremov.deviantart.com/art/SAILING-LEONID-AFREMOV-253355218

RoGallary. Leonid Afremov, Belerusian (1955 – ). N.p, 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://rogallery.com/Afremov_Leonid/afremov-biography.htm

Tate. Yacht Approaching the Coast. N.p, 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-yacht-approaching-the-coast-n04662

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.Auguste Renoir (1841–1919).N.p, 2013.Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/augu/hd_augu.htm

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.Claude Monet (1840–1926). N.p, 2013.Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/cmon/hd_cmon.htm

Wikigallery. Seascape in the Moonlight. N.p, 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_337213/Caspar-David-Friedrich/Seascape-in-the-Moonlight-(ca.-1835)

Wikipedia. Impressionism.N.p, 2014.Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism

Wikipedia. Impression, Sunrise.N.p, 2014.Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impression,_Sunrise

Wikipedia Commons. File: Pierre-Auguste Renoir 121.jpg. N.p, 2014. Web. 24 Mar. 2014. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pierre-Auguste_Renoir_121.jpg

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Morality and the Art of the Classical Era

 

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Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

At the beginning of the Classical era within the visual arts was the Rococo style. This style was started in France and spread through Europe. The aristocrats were huge patrons of this new style or it could even be said that they were the Rococo styles only patrons. The aristocrats of the Classical era had enormous political power and wealth; many of them chose to live a leisurely, frivolous life and the Rococo style was a reflection of their taste. The Rococo style uses lots of pastel colors, curving forms, and light subject matter in a very romanticized way. The subjects of the artwork have a glow that is almost doll like and dressed in luxurious cloth and lace with fabulous hairstyles. The artwork was seen as frivolous and carefree with an emphasis on pleasure. The paintings did not reflect real life whatsoever and were very self-indulgent.  Fetes galantes paintings became a genre within the Rococo style depicting lavish and exquisite outdoor parties. The figures within the artwork would be in ball dress or masquerade costumes posing in park like settings.

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Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

Francois Boucher (1703-1770), born in Paris was an artist of many talents. He worked in virtually every genre of his time and was well known for his ability to work with many styles and types of artwork. He is well known for helping form the Rococo style and spreading it throughout Europe. One of his Rococo style paintings is The Toilette of Venus which was painted in 1751 in Paris France; it is an oil on canvas painting. The painting is of Madame de Pompadour who was a patron of Boucher’s until her death in 1764. As you can see in the painting it is the essence of Rococo style with the grand sofa she is seated on as she glows in a goddess like way with beautiful tapestry surrounding her and the cupids adoring her. As you can see she is relaxing in a carefree state of mind as her cupid plays with her hair and holding a bird in a godly type of way as it is a normal thing to do. As her riches lay at her feet and one cupid is playing with her expensive jewels you get the sense that her riches are just another thing to her as she lives a glamorized life.

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Photo courtesy of artsnpaintings.blogspot.com

Another great Rococo style painting by Boucher is, Diana Leaving Her Bath which was painted in 1742, oil on canvas, in France. She is shown as a huntress in this painting as you can see her bow and kill in the corner of the painting with her hunting dogs sniffing around as she rests after her bath. You can just imagine the scene that played out before her bath; after a leisurely hunt in the forest they stopped for a bath in a nearby pond before heading home. Even in the forest after a hunt the characters of Rococo style are shown in lavish riches; as Diana is holding pearls with a fabulous hairstyle. It seems as though the other girl in the painting is her maiden as she is kneeling next to her inspecting her foot and even she has a lovely hairstyle.

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Photo courtesy of cenblog.org

During the Classical era the visual arts changed dramatically. There was a huge movement towards the Neoclassical style and a swing away from the Rococo style that had dominated the beginning of this era. This happened because the middle class was appalled with the Rococo style as it became a symbol of the moral decline of the French leadership. Artists who were supporters of linear art that showed orderliness started a trend that was anti-Rococo in nature.  With changes in human intellect from the enlightenment and the scientific discovery of the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii came an inspiration that was much more virtuous and public minded. It created a culture, within the people, that was of moral virtues, patriotic self-sacrifice, and goodly deeds.  

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), born Paris was an instrumental Neoclassical artist. He was inspired by the findings of Pompeii and looked to arts of antiquity to find an ancient moral energy for his artwork. Even in his earliest of painting he was light years away from the frivolous nature of the Rococo style. He was an avid supporter of the Revolution and could be called the “official” painter of that time. One of the famous Neoclassical paintings of David’s is called the Portrait of Monsieur Lavoisier and His Wife which was painted in 1788, oil on canvas, in France.  It depicts the perfect idea of what the Neoclassical style was about with simplicity and as if the painting was capturing a moment in time. It also shows how the enlightenment affected people as they wanted to be seen as more studious and intelligent rather than carefree.

 

In the beginning of the era Classical music was dominated by composers creating and preforming for the aristocrat classes for their private entertainment. By the end of the era the composers became independent freelance artists. They were still working for the wealthy, but they also created compositions for public concert halls and opera houses. This is surely linked to the dramatic change from Rococo to Neoclassical style that happened during this era. The aristocrats were looked down upon for their romanticized lifestyles and this brought more and more people to break away from these ideals, even composers of this time. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) being one of the predominant composers of the Classical era was a child prodigy. At the age of 5 he was already composing and preforming for royalty. He first started his career preforming for royalty and then gradually started preforming in concert settings as he became an established and well liked composer. The Magic Flute is one of Mozart’s last compositions that he created before he died. It is an opera in two acts and premiered at Schikaneder’s theatre in Vienna in 1791.

 

Overall the Classical era was a time of great achievement. The Rococo and Neoclassical styles have huge differences, but they show how our world is changing all the time. Within one era there were great scientific discoveries and a change of mind in the way people thought about life and how the average person could impact life. These changes were for the better, with moral virtues held in a higher regard than frivolous, self-indulgent ways. Even though is era is long gone I am glad to know that even then people were making changes for the better. It helps me remember how good humankind can be.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Pomarède, Vincent. Diana Leaving Her Bath. N.p, 2007. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/diana-leaving-her-bath

Khan Academy. Fragonard’s The Swing. N.p, 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/rococo.html

Neoclassicism and French Revolution. Jacques-Louis David. N.p. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/his/CoreArt/art/neocl_dav.html

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. François Boucher (1703–1770). N.p, 2013. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bouc/hd_bouc.htm

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Toilette of Venus, François Boucher. N.p, 2013. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/435739

Wikipedia. François Boucher. N.p, 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Boucher

Wikipedia. Portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and his wife. N.p, 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_Antoine-Laurent_Lavoisier_and_his_wife

Wikipedia. The Magic Flute. N.p, 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magic_Flute

Wikipedia. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. N.p, 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozart