The End of an Era
THE EIGHTH IMPRESSIONIST EXHIBITION
Despite problems with customs, the New York Impressionist show goes
ahead, opening a month before the eighth and last group exhibition
in Paris. Sadly, there is a great deal of acrimony among the artists
— not least over the inclusion of the 'Neo-Impressionists' Seurat
The New English Art Club is formed in London for artists with
Impressionist leanings (founders include Clausen, Sargent and
1st Morisot visits Renoir and admires his new style.
7th Degas visits Naples in connection with family affairs.
8th Through Durand-Ruel, Monet, Renoir and Redon send about
eight works each to an exhibition staged by the avant-garde
organization Les Vingt in Brussels.
Degas is invited to
exhibit, but declines.
Durand-Ruel buys his last painting from Sisley.
20th Van Gogh arrives in Paris and stays with his brother Theo.
View of Montmartre
Painted when he was 33, shortly after his arrival in Paris, this
work shows the extent to which van Gogh's contact with the
Impressionists, especially Pissarro, lightened his palette and gave
his work a sense of space that it had not possessed before.
Pissarro starts to work in Pointillist style. When he tells Degas
that Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is 'very interesting', Degas replies 'It's certainly very big.'
23rd Durand-Ruel enters forty-three cases at the New York Customs
House, containing some three hundred pictures valued at $81,799,
which he has sent in preparation for his first exhibition in the
USA. Monet paints at Etretat.
Gauguin finds work as a billposter at 5 francs an hour. He urgently
needs money as his son Clovis is ill.
1st Publication of Zola's novel L'Oeuvre, about the Parisian art
The central character, based mainly on Cezanne and partly on Manet,
causes great offence in Impressionist circles.
3rd Cezanne writes his last letter to Zola.
10th Durand-Ruel's exhibition of 'Works in oil and pastel by the
Impressionists of Paris' opens at Moore's American Art Galleries,
Fifth Avenue, New York. The catalogue (which confuses Monet with
Manet) includes an introduction by Duret and extracts from
reviews in various French and English papers.
14th Pissarro's first Pointillist paintings are displayed at
in the rue de Chateaudun.
15th Monet goes to Holland at the
invitation of the Secretary to the French Embassy in The Hague. He
fortnight painting in the tulip fields.
17th Degas and Cassatt give each other
one of their own works.
28th Cezanne marries Hortense Fiquet
in Aix-en-Provence and legitimizes their son Paul.
15th The eighth Impressionist exhibition opens at I rue
20th Pissarro, Seurat, Gauguin and others hold adinner to celebrate the exhibition.
This study in pastel for his painting The Four Breton Girls was
executed during Gauguin's first visit to Pont-Aven.
6th Opening of the fifth International Exhibition at Georges Petit's
It includes works by Monet, Renoir and Rodin.
A poster for the eighth Impressionist exhibition.
8th Berthe Morisot and her husband holiday on the Isle of Wight.
16th Mirbeau publishes a laudatory article on Renoir in Le Gaulois.
25th Durand-Ruel's New York exhibition moves to the National Academy
of Design - with additional pictures, thirteen of them lent by
American collectors, including the Havemeyers.
makes his first visit to Pont-Aven in Brittany.
8th Durand-Ruel sees the new 'classical-style' Renoirs
at Georges Petit's gallery and says he doesn't like them at all.
3rd Opening of the Salon des Independants.
The exhibition (the
second held by the Societe des Artistes Independants) includes works
by Pissarro, Seurat, Signac and Douanier Rousseau. 10th Renoir goes
to La Chapelle-St-Briac in Brittany, where he rents a house for two
Van Gogh starts studying at the studio of the academic painter
Fernand Cormon, where he meets Toulouse-Lautrec.
Photograph of Cormon's atelier.
Toulouse-Lautrec (at the front,
is among the students.
4th Monet goes to stay with Octave Mirbeau in Noirmoutiers. On the
way there he paints on Belle-Ile, off the coast of Brittany.
17th The anarchistic Exposition des Arts Incoherents opens at
the Eden Theatre in Montmartre. The participants use
pseudonyms, and Toulouse-Lautrec exhibits a painting entitled Les Batignolles
З 1/2 BC satirizing the Impressionists.
The front cover of the March 1887
edition of the satirical magazine
The illustration is Toulouse-Lautrec's The Last
23rd Cezanne's father dies, leaving him a large sum of money.
25th Van Gogh admires a 'marvellous Degas' at the branch of
Boussod & Valadon managed by his brother Theo.
28th Renoir moves to 35 boulevard Rochechouart.
5th Degas and Gauguin are reconciled. The latter distances
himself from Pissarro, his former mentor.
25th Gauguin meets Vincent van Gogh at Theo's gallery.
Gauguin has to go into hospital.
A Whistler exhibition opens at Georges Petit's gallery.
3rd Pissarro, Seurat and Signac exhibit at Martinet's gallery in the
boulevard des Italiens.
14th Toulouse-Lautrec invites van Gogh to Aristide Bruant's cabaret,
Le Mirliton, to see his work displayed there.
THE EIGHTH IMPRESSIONIST EXHIBITION
The eighth Impressionist exhibition (described in the catalogue
simply as 'Exposition de peinture par...') was held from May 15th to
June 15th on the second floor of the Maison Doree, a well-known
restaurant at the corner of the rue Lafitte and the boulevard des
Degas wrote to Felix Bracquemond early in May : 'We are opening on
the 15th. Everything is being done at once! You know that we uphold
the condition not to send anything to the Salon. You do not fulfil
this condition, but how about your wife? Monet, Renoir, Caillebotte
and Sisley have not answered the call. Expenses are covered through
an arrangement which I have no time to explain. In case entrance
fees do not cover these expenses, we'll pass the hat round among the
exhibitors. The premises are not as large as they should be, but are
admirably situated... the Jablochkof Company is proposing to install
electric lighting for us.'
In the Dining Room
This evocative painting is set in Morisot's dining room at her home
in the rue Villejust. The pose of the maid, seemingly interrupted in
the middle of her chores, the open cupboard door and the lively
little dog in the corner all contribute to the work's sense of
immediacy. Also, the tiered view — from the doorway, through the
room to the landscape background outside the window — makes it one
of Morisot's most spatially complex paintings.
There were 246 works on show, and exhibitors included Marie
Bracquemond, Cassatt, Degas, Forain, Gauguin, Guillaumin, Morisot,
Gamille and Lucien Pissarro, Odilon Redon, Rouart, Schuffenecker,
Seurat, Signac, Tillot, Vignon and Zandomeneghi. There was also a
Gomtesse de Rambure, of whom Felix Feneon acidly remarked 'the
catalogue does not dare to mention her works.'
Preliminary discussions had started in October, and had been marked
by even more acrimony than usual. When was the exhibition to be
held? Were Seurat and Signac to be admitted? (This problem was
solved by assigning them a room of their own.) Was Gauguin's friend
Schuffenecker, who had participated in the first exhibition of the
Independants, to be admitted?
View from my Window
1886 (reworked 1888)
Pissarro's use of pointillist technique is evident in this painting,
both in the broken, 'dotted' brushwork and in his use of
complementary colours to depict the light of the sky.
From the start, it was clear that this was the end of Impressionism
in the sense of the movement that had begun in 1874. The guiding
spirits of the exhibition were Degas and Pissarro, who by his own
conversion to a somewhat diluted form of Pointillism, as well as his
insistence on admitting Seurat, Signac and Lucien Pissarro, was
making the point that there was a viable successor to the original
The critics — indeed, art opinion generally — concentrated on two
aspects of the exhibition. The first was Degas' pastels showing
women engaged in activities such as washing or dressing. Typically,
detailed analysis of their surroundings — cheap furniture and metal
bathtubs etc. — was combined with comments on their physical
ugliness ('distressing and lamentable poems about flesh', 'frog-like
appearances', 'stout women with swollen flesh, who rest their hands
on their buttocks'), culminating in the accusation that Degas was 'a
ferocious misogynist' who wilfully debased women, reducing them to
'animal and nearly monkey-like functions'.
Sunday Afternoon on the
Island of La Grande Jatte
In this work Seurat perfected his pointillist technique of applying
small points of pure pigment over a layer of fine paint. Its hues
and tones, produced by an optical rather than a physical mixture of
the paints, had an unprecedented freshness, particularly suited to a
scene with strong colours and pronounced contrasts of light and
Although Seurat based this work on sketches done en plan air, he
eliminated non-essentials to produce a monumental canvas, entirely
devoid of the spontaneity of Impressionist painting.
The other focus of comment was Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the
Island of La Grande Jatte, which dominated the exhibition by virtue
of its size, its technique and its subject matter. It did not arouse
quite so much derision as might have been expected, for it clearly
involved a great deal of diligent application - invariably one of
the criteria by which the public judged a work of art. A number of
reviewers drew attention to the revolutionary qualities apparent in
Seurat's representation of all classes of society, including
workers, nursemaids and soldiers. But there was also a realization
that here was the foundation of a new 'scientific' movement that
would dispense with the bravura and individualism of Impressionism.
Here, it seemed, was an art which was not fragmentary and did not
depend on instinctive and haphazard responses to nature.
Manet is likely to have been attracted by the Gare St-Lazare when
living nearby at 4 rue de St-Petersbourg. Typically, he did not
focus on the industrial aspects of the station, but on a figurative
The woman is Victorine Meurent, who ten years earlier posed for
Olympia, and the girl is the daughter of his friend and neighbour Alphonse Hirsch.
Victorine Louise Meurent
Victorine Louise Meurent (February 18,
1844 – March 17, 1927) was a French painter and a famous model for
painters. Although she is best-known nowadays as the favourite model
of Édouard Manet, she was also an artist in her own right who
regularly exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon. In 1876 her
paintings were selected for inclusion at the Salon's juried
exhibition, when Manet's work was not.
Meurent, c. 1865, album of portraits belonging to
Édouard Manet (BNF, France).
Paris to a family of artisans (her father was a
patinator of bronzes, while her mother was a
milliner), Meurent started modeling at the age of
sixteen in the studio of Thomas Couture and may also
have studied art at his women's atelier. She first
worked for Manet in 1862, posing for a painting
entitled The Street Singer. Manet was first drawn to
Meurent when he saw her in the street, carrying her
guitar. She was particularly noticeable for her
petite stature, which earned her the nickname La
Crevette (The Shrimp), and for her red hair, which
is depicted as very bright in Manet's watercolor
copy of Olympia. As well as playing the guitar,
Meurent also played the violin, gave lessons in the
two instruments, and sang in café-concerts.
Meurent's name remains
forever associated with Manet's masterpieces of
1863, The Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, which
include nude portrayals of her. At that time she
also modeled for Edgar Degas and the Belgian painter
Alfred Stevens, both close friends of Manet. Her
relationship with Stevens is said to have been
Manet continued to
use Victorine Meurent as a model until the early
1870s, when she began taking art classes and they
became estranged, as she was drawn to the more
academic style of painting against which Manet's
work was in opposition. The last
Manet painting in which Meurent appears is Gare
Saint-Lazare, painted in 1873, which is often
referred to as The Railway. The painting is
considered the best example of Manet's use of
Three years later,
Meurent first presented work of her own at the 1876
Salon and her work was accepted. Ironically, Manet's
own submissions were rejected by the jury that year.
Bourgeoise de Nuremberg au XVIe siècle, Meurent's
entry at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1879, was
hung in the same room as the entry by Manet. Work by
Meurent also was included in the 1885 and 1904
exhibitions. In all, Meurent exhibited in the Salon
She also continued to support herself
by modelling through the 1880s for Norbert Goeneutte, an artist
best-known for his etchings today, and for Toulouse-Lautrec who took
to introducing her as Olympia.
Meurent was inducted into the
Société des Artistes Français in 1903, with the support of Charles
Hermann-Leon and Tony Robert-Fleury, the Société's founder. By 1906
Meurent had left Paris for the suburb of Colombes, where she lived
with a woman named Marie Dufour for the remainder of her life. The
two appear to have shared ownership of their house. In her eighties
she continued to refer to herself as an artist, as recorded in a
census from that time. Meurent died on March 17, 1927. After the
death of Dufour in 1930, the contents of the house were liquidated;
in the late twentieth century, elderly neighbours recalled the last
contents of the house, including a violin and its case, being burnt
on a bonfire.
A painting by Meurent, Le Jour des
Rameaux or Palm Sunday was recovered in 2004 and now hangs in the
Colombes History Museum.
Meurent in fiction
Victorine Meurent's life has inspired two historical novels, and she
appears as a character in several others.
The Irish writer George Moore
included Meurent as a character in his semi-fictional autobiography,
Memoirs of My Dead Life (1906). She appears as a middle-aged woman
past her prime, living in a lesbian relationship with a famous
Meurent is the protagonist of both
Mademoiselle Victorine: a Novel (2007) by Debra Finerman and A Woman
With No Clothes On (2008) by V R Main.
She also appears in the film
Intimate Lives: The Women of Manet, aka Manet in Love (1998), played
by Shelley Phillips, and most recently in Christopher Moore's novel
Sacré Bleu (2012).
Meurent in Manet's works
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Mlle. Victorine in the Costume of a Matador
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (detail)
Woman with Parrot
Metropolitan Museum of Art
AN AMERICAN JUDGEMENT
Durand-Ruel's first American exhibition opened at Moore's American
Art Galleries in New York on April 1 Oth, then moved to the National
Academy of Design in June. The exhibition included forty-eight works
by Monet, forty-two by Pissarro, thirty-eight by Renoir,
twenty-three by Degas, seventeen by Manet, fifteen by Sisley, three
by Seurat, and several by Gaillebotte, Gassatt and Morisot. Among
the most important were: Degas' The Singer in Green (c.1884); Manet's
The Absinthe Drinker (1858-9), The Balcony and
Railroad; Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party and
at Bougival; Morisot's La Toilette (c. 1875); and Seurat's
Bathing at Asnures. One of the few favourable reviews of
the exhibition appeared in the June issue of Cosmopolitan. Written
by Luther Hamilton, it was short on the specific and long on the
generalized, but it did try to identify the special characteristics
of the movement:
The Impressionists believe in the possibility of making closer
approximations to many appearances in nature than have been in
vogue, and even in the possibility of approximating in the symbolism
of painting phases of nature that have not hitherto been attempted.
On these theories, one of them paints, say a man rowing on a lake,
aiming to give the impression of the broken reflections produced by
his oars, and, perhaps, doing it wonderfully; but between the
painter and the observer there must be generally lacking that common
understanding before referred to. The approximation may be far
closer than in various ambitious portrayals of Niagara Falls with
which the observer is familiar. But long experience has taught him
that certain woolly appearances do nominally represent Niagara
while the yellow splashes of paint suggesting the broken reflections
he sees in all their nakedness as yellow splashes of paint.
Moreover, the tendency is not even to compare the new approximation
with nature, but with other and different pictures, the measure of
the nearness being also the measure of the condemnation meted out.
One of the greatest stumbling-blocks in the Impressionist work, as
shown here, was the prevalence of violet shadows. In considering
this, it must be remembered that there are more violets in the
shadows in many parts of France than in this country; also the
violet in out-of-doors pictures greatly brightens the effect of the
yellow sunshine, and to give any impression of light and brilliancy,
in the least suggesting of nature's, is always the painter's most
impossible problem. The Impressionists, with their violet shadows,
have made by far the closest approximation we have yet had. We can
well afford to take the little exaggeration, or even falsity, for
the sake of the far larger and more important truth thus attained.