In April 1874 a group of young artists defied the official Paris Salon by setting up their own independent exhibition. Including works by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissaro, Edgar Degas and Berthe Morisot, it became known as the first Impressionist exhibition, after the initial use of the term in an article critical of the works.
The Impressionists rejected the old-fashioned tenets of the French academy with its emphasis on draughtsmanship, ‘finish’ and historical subject matter. Instead, they aimed to capture the transience of nature, the fleeting moment.
Embracing the ideas of Charles Baudelaire, the Impressionists were encouraged to leave their studios and paint their immediate environment. Working 'en plein air' was a fundamental principle of Impressionism along with a need to be in tune with the contemporary world and the fleeting experiences of urban life. Working on small, portable canvases in the open air, they achieved sparkling effects, not by broken tones and contrasts, but by a division of colour, applying the paint in short, fragmented brushstrokes.
Despite the initial criticisms, Impressionism paved the way for modern movements, with its emphasis on technique over subject matter shaking the foundations of academic art.
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