Impressionism Timeline  
  Impressionism * Neo-Impressionism * Post-Impressionism  

  1870 1880 1890
  1871 1881 1891
  1872 1882 1892
1863 1873 1883 1893
1864 1874 1884 1894
1865 1875 1885 1895
1866 1876 1886 1896
1867 1877 1887 1897
1868 1878 1888 1898
1869 1879 1889 1899
Impressionism Timeline
Impressionism * Neo-Impressionism * Post-Impressionism
Camille Pissarro
Edouard Manet (1832-83) Edgar Degas (1834-1917) Alfred Sisley (1839-99)

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906)
Claude Monet (1840-1826) Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Frederic Bazille (1841-70)

Armand Guillaumin

Berthe Morisot (1841-95)

Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917)

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) Giuseppe de Nittis
Max Liebermann
Gustave Caillebotte (1848-94) Peder Severin Kroyer (1851-1909) Vincent van Gogh
Charles Angrand
Henri-Edmond Cross (1856-1910)

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
Childe Hassam 

Georges Seurat (1859-91)
Louis Anquetin
(1861- 1932)
Theo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926) Paul Signac (1863-1935) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) Emile Bernard (1868-1941)
Impressionism, French Impressionnisme, a major movement, first in painting and later in music, that developed chiefly in France during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Impressionist painting comprises the work produced between about 1867 and 1886 by a group of artists who shared a set of related approaches and techniques. The most conspicuous characteristic of Impressionism in painting was an attempt to accurately and objectively record visual reality in terms of transient effects of light and colour. In music, it was to convey an idea or affect through a wash of sound rather than a strict formal structure.

The principal Impressionist painters were Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin, and Frédéric Bazille, who worked together, influenced each other, and exhibited together. Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne also painted in an Impressionist style for a time in the early 1870s. The established painter Édouard Manet, whose work in the 1860s greatly influenced Monet and others of the group, himself adopted the Impressionist approach about 1873.

These artists became dissatisfied early in their careers with academic teaching’s emphasis on depicting a historical or mythological subject matter with literary or anecdotal overtones. They also rejected the conventional imaginative or idealizing treatments of academic painting. By the late 1860s, Manet’s art reflected a new aesthetic—which was to be a guiding force in Impressionist work—in which the importance of the traditional subject matter was downgraded and attention was shifted to the artist’s manipulation of colour, tone, and texture as ends in themselves. In Manet’s painting the subject became a vehicle for the artful composition of areas of flat colour, and perspectival depth was minimized so that the viewer would look at the surface patterns and relationships of the picture rather than into the illusory three-dimensional space it created. About the same time, Monet was influenced by the innovative painters Eugene Boudin and Johan Barthold Jongkind, who depicted fleeting effects of sea and sky by means of highly coloured and texturally varied methods of paint application. The Impressionists also adopted Boudin’s practice of painting entirely out-of-doors while looking at the actual scene, instead of finishing up a painting from sketches in the studio, as was the conventional practice.

In the late 1860s Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and others began painting landscapes and river scenes in which they tried to dispassionately record the colours and forms of objects as they appeared in natural light at a given time. These artists abandoned the traditional landscape palette of muted greens, browns, and grays and instead painted in a lighter, sunnier, more brilliant key. They began by painting the play of light upon water and the reflected colours of its ripples, trying to reproduce the manifold and animated effects of sunlight and shadow and of direct and reflected light that they observed. In their efforts to reproduce immediate visual impressions as registered on the retina, they abandoned the use of grays and blacks in shadows as inaccurate and used complementary colours instead. More importantly, they learned to build up objects out of discrete flecks and dabs of pure harmonizing or contrasting colour, thus evoking the broken-hued brilliance and the variations of hue produced by sunlight and its reflections. Forms in their pictures lost their clear outlines and became dematerialized, shimmering and vibrating in a re-creation of actual outdoor conditions. And finally, traditional formal compositions were abandoned in favour of a more casual and less contrived disposition of objects within the picture frame. The Impressionists extended their new techniques to depict landscapes, trees, houses, and even urban street scenes and railroad stations.

In 1874 the group held its first show, independent of the official Salon of the French Academy, which had consistently rejected most of their works. Monet’s painting Impression: Sunrise (1872; Musée Marmottan, Paris) earned them the initially derisive name “Impressionists” from the journalist Louis Leroy writing in the satirical magazine Le Charivari in 1874. The artists themselves soon adopted the name as descriptive of their intention to accurately convey visual “impressions.” They held seven subsequent shows, the last in 1886. During that time they continued to develop their own personal and individual styles. All, however, affirmed in their work the principles of freedom of technique, a personal rather than a conventional approach to subject matter, and the truthful reproduction of nature.

By the mid-1880s the Impressionist group had begun to dissolve as each painter increasingly pursued his own aesthetic interests and principles. In its short existence, however, it had accomplished a revolution in the history of art, providing a technical starting point for the Postimpressionist artists Cézanne, Degas, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat and freeing all subsequent Western painting from traditional techniques and approaches to subject matter.


In music, Claude Debussy has always been considered the principal Impressionist. Even though Debussy was influenced by the general aesthetic attitudes of Impressionist painters, he made no attempts to compose with musical techniques that were closely analogous to techniques of painting. Furthermore, the characteristics of Debussy’s music are so variable from the first through the last of his compositions that even a general sense of Impressionism might best be restricted to most of his music composed between about 1892 to 1903 and to certain specific later compositions strongly resembling those works in style. Some of these Impressionist works would be the opera Pelléas et Mélisande (first performed in 1902), the orchestral piece “Nuages” (“Clouds,” from Nocturnes, completed in 1899), and the piano piece “Voiles” (“Sails,” from Douze Préludes, Book I, 1910). Other composers considered Impressionistic include Maurice Ravel, Frederick Delius, Ottorino Respighi, Karol Szymanowski, and Charles Griffes.

Musical Impressionism is often thought to refer to subtle fragility, amorphous passivity, and vague mood music. A more accurate characterization of Impressionist music would include restraint and understatement, a static quality, and a provocatively colourful effect resulting from composers’ fascination with pure sound as a beautiful and mysterious end in itself. Technically, these characteristics often result from a static use of harmony, ambiguous tonality, a lack of sharp formal contrasts and of onward rhythmic drive, and a blurring of the distinction between melody and accompaniment. Although Impressionism has been considered a movement away from the excesses of Romanticism, the sources of many of its characteristics may be found in the works of composers who are also considered to be the Romantic precursors of Expressionism—e.g., Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, and Aleksandr Scriabin.

Encyclopædia Britannica
Neo-Impressionism, movement in French painting of the late 19th century that reacted against the empirical realism of Impressionism by relying on systematic calculation and scientific theory to achieve predetermined visual effects. Whereas the Impressionist painters spontaneously recorded nature in terms of the fugitive effects of colour and light, the Neo-Impressionists applied scientific optical principles of light and colour to create strictly formalized compositions. Neo-Impressionism was led by Georges Seurat, who was its original theorist and most significant artist, and by Paul Signac, also an important artist and the movement’s major spokesman. Other Neo-Impressionist painters were Henri-Edmond Cross, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Maximilien Luce, Théo Van Rysselberghe, and, for a time, the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. The group founded a Société des Artistes Indépendants in 1884.

The terms divisionism and pointillism originated in descriptions of Seurat’s painting technique, in which paint was applied to the canvas in dots of contrasting pigment. A calculated arrangement of coloured dots, based on optical science, was intended to be perceived by the retina as a single hue. The entire canvas was covered with these dots, which defined form without the use of lines and bathed all objects in an intense, vibrating light. In each picture the dots were of a uniform size, calculated to harmonize with the overall size of the painting. In place of the hazy forms of Impressionism, those of Neo-Impressionism had solidity and clarity and were simplified to reveal the carefully composed relationships between them. Though the light quality was as brilliant as that of Impressionism, the general effect was of immobile, harmonious monumentality, a crystallization of the fleeting light of Impressionism.

Signac’s later work showed an increasingly spontaneous use of the divisionist technique, which was more consistent with his poetic sensibility. Seurat, however, continued to adopt a theoretical approach to the study of various pictorial and technical problems, including a reduction of the expressive qualities of colour and form to scientific formulas. By the 1890s the influence of Neo-Impressionism was waning, but it was important in the early stylistic and technical development of several artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Henri Matisse.

Encyclopædia Britannica
Art in Revolt

Furious at their rejection from the Salon, hundreds of French artists complain to the authorities.
As a result, the Emperor orders an exhibition of rejected works, the Salon des Refuses. It is dominated by Manet's 'Dejeuner sur I'herbe', showing a naked woman picnicking in the open with two fully clothed men - to young artists a triumph of Realism, to conservatives a shameless piece of pornography.

The Government promulgates new regulations for the Salon whereby no artist can submit more than three works. Those who have won first-class or second-class medals in previous Salons do not have to submit their entries to the jury.

Lucien, the eldest son of Pissarro and Julie Vellay (Pissarro's mother's maid), is born in Paris.

Manet has a one-man exhibition at Louis Martinet's gallery in the boulevard des Italiens. The fourteen works on show include Lola de Valence, Music in the Tuileries Gardens, The Old Musician and Boy with a Sword.

7th 'Lola de Valence', a song by Zacharie Astruc about the popular Spanish dancer, is published with a cover by Manet.

Lola de Valence

Lola de Valence, star of Mariano Camprubi's ballet, which visited France in 1862—3, seemed to symbolize the spirit of Spain at a rime when Spanish themes were in vogue. This was one of a series of paintings by Manet that included The Spanish Singer.

In March 1863 a serenade appeared entitled Lola de Valence, dedicated to the Queen of Spain, with words and music by Manet's friend Zacharie Astruc. On the cover of the song sheet was a lithograph of the dancer by Manet.

Music in the Tuileries

The gardens of the Tuileries Palace (burned down during the Commune of 1871) were opened to the public by Napoleon III and soon became a popular meeting place. This lively portrait of Second Empire society (many of the figures are thought to have been based on photographs) is an example of Manet's concern with contemporary life. The artist himself can be seen standing in a dandyish pose on the extreme left; among the crowd are Baudelaire, Offenbach, Zacharie Astruc, Theophile Gautier and Fantin-Latour.

The ornate entrance to the
Palais de I'lndustrie in the Champs-Elysecs,
where the annual exhibition of the Salon
was held. Completed in 1853, it was built
as a permanent exhibition site.

The Salon jury announces its decisions. Of approximately 5000 works submitted, 2217 are accepted. There are 983 exhibitors, a marked drop in numbers from 1289 the previous year. Among the artists rejected is Manet, who had submitted three works — including his recently painted Dejeuner sur I'herbe. Fantin-Latour, Legros, Renoir and Whistler all have work hung.

24th An Imperial decree is published in Le Moniteur universel stating that 'Numerous complaints have reached the Emperor on the subject of works of art which have been refused by the [Salon] jury... His Majesty, wishing to let the public know the legitimacy of these complaints, has decided that the rejected works are to be exhibited in another part of the Palais de I'lndustrie. This exhibition will be voluntary, and artists who do not wish to participate will need only to inform the administration, which will hasten to return their works to them.'

Opening of the Salon. To avoid favouritism, the pictures are arranged in alphabetical order of the artists' names. Portraits and battle scenes predominate, with a generous scattering of nudes. Corot, Millet, Puvis de Ghavannes and Theodore Rousseau are among the more progressive artists included in the exhibition.

17th The Salon des Refuses opens in a separate part of the Palais de I'lndustrie from the main Salon. The catalogue lists only 781 exhibits, although there are actually many more. Among those exhibiting are Bracquemond, Cezanne, Manet and Pissarro. Whistler's The White Girl, rejected by the Royal Academy in London in 1862, is the success of the exhibition. Manet's Dejeuner sur I'herbe causes a sensation, establishing him as the leading dissident of the art world.

23rd Monet and Bazille paint en plein air in Ghailly. Pissarro moves to Varenne-St-Hilaire.

Symphony in White: No. I The White Girl

When this portrait of Whistler's mistress Joanna
Hifferman (known as Jo) was exhibited at the
Salon des Refuses in 1863, it attracted a great
deal of attention and was greeted with
enthusiasm by the avant-garde.

Degas visits his cousins the Mussons in Bourg-en-Bresse, where they have settled after leaving America
because of the Civil War. Berthe Morisot goes painting on the Oise with her sister Edma, who is learning to paint.

Renoir comes ninth out of twelve candidates in the composition examination at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

Manet marries the Dutch pianist Suzanne Leenhoff, with whom he has been having an affair since 1850. Despite their marriage, their son Leon, born in 1852, retains his mother's maiden name.

Cezanne applies for permission to study at the Louvre.

13th An Imperial decree is issued making radical changes to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Control of the school is to be taken away from the Academie des Beaux-Arts (part of the Institut de France) and vested in the government, which is to appoint the professors, lecturers and administrators. It also stipulates that students must be French nationals between the ages of 15 and 30, and foreigners can only be admitted on an exceptional basis.


Dejeuner sur I'herbe

The inspiration for this painting (originally entitled Le Bain] came from two sources: Marcantonio Raimondi's engraving (c.1500) of Raphael's The Judgement of Paris and Titian's Le Concert Champetre, of which Manet owned a copy. The man looking out from the painting is based on one of Manet's brothers (or possibly both), while his companion is the sculptor Ferdinand Leenhoff, brother of Suzanne Leen-hoff, whom Manet married in October. The nude sitting with them is Victorine Meurent — who also posed for Olympia.
I ought not to omit a remarkable picture of the Realist school, a translation of a thought ofGiorgione into modem French. Yes, there they are, under the trees, the principal lady entirely undressed, sitting calmly in the well-known attitude of Giorgione's Venetian woman; another female in a chemise coming out of a little stream that runs hard by; and two Frenchmen in wide-awakes [broad-brimmed hats] sitting on the very green grass with a stupid look of bliss.

PHILIP HAMERTON, Fine Arts Quarterly Review, June 1863

Unfortunately the nude hasn't a good figure and one can't think of anything uglier than the man stretched out beside her, who hasn't even thought of taking off ...his horrid padded cap. It is the contrast of a creature so inappropriate in a pastoral scene with this naked bather that is so shocking.


A commonplace woman of the demi-monde, as naked as possible, shamelessly lolls between two overdressed fops, who look like schoolboys on a holiday doing something naughty to play at being grown-up. I search in vain for any meaning to this unbecoming riddle.

LOUIS ETIENNE, Le Jury et les exposants, 1863

I see garments without feeling the anatomical structure that supports them and explains their movements. I see boneless fingers and heads without skulls. I see side-whiskers made of two strips of black cloth that could have been glued to the cheeks. What else do I see? The artist's lack of conviction and sincerity.

JULES CASTAGNARY, reprinted in Salons, 1892