Effect and Finish:
The Evolution of the Impressionist Style
In the 1860s the Impressionists were the direct heirs to the Romantic landscape painters' responsive attitude toward nature, their emphasis on subjectivity and originality, and their desire to communicate their emotional experiences in nature to the viewers of their works. The vehicle for this communication of emotional experience was understood by painters of both generations to be the "effect" -- the characteristic luminary pattern through which nature, at any given moment, creates a mood and weaves a poetic spell for the sensitive observer. It was toward recording these broad tonal harmonies and thereby capturing the emotional states they engendered that the Impressionists, like their predecessors, directed their efforts when sketching outdoors.
The tool used by these artists to preserve their impressions of natural luminary effects was the pochade, a particular type of outdoor landscape study (étude) devoted to the notation of effect. An established category or procedure of sketching for both conservative and progressive landscape painters throughout the nineteenth century, it was defined late in the century in a manual by the official painter Ernest Hareux as "the general impression of an effect in which every part is jotted down with its respective value, and contributes to the whole." 122 The same writer also observed:
The most important thing in a picture is the effect. A landscape is not a good one unless we can tell what season of the year and what time of day it represents. To achieve this aim, one must observe constantly and draw one's impressions from nature alone . . . making very small pochades with no other object than to capture the exact effect . . . and reproduce a fugitive impression. 123
Another popular writer of painting manuals of this period, Karl Robert, defined the pochade as "a study of a complete theme, done from the point of view of correct values and conveying the impression of a motif that has caught the painter's attention." According to the same writer, the pochade served in the execution of the final work as both its base and its complement: ". . . its base, since it is from the pochade that you establish the range of values; its complement, since it helps you to remain true to the desired effect as your work proceeds." 124
Once having captured en plein air the fugitive tonal patterns of nature's evocative light, either in the small, separate pochade or, more rarely, in the preliminary layer of the final work, called the ébauche, artists of the older generation had normally returned to the studio to build a poetic reconstruction of the landscape upon the basic scaffolding of this immediately captured tonal effect -- confident of being able to produce paintings that would provide for the spectator emotions analogous to the ones they themselves had experienced in direct, personal communion with nature. But as artists became more and more committed to replacing the standard, formulaic effects of academic painting with those provided by nature, more time was spent working directly outdoors. By the 1860s Daubigny,