Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Those Risk-Taking Impressionists by Gregory M. Lamb

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Those Risk-Taking Impressionists by Gregory M. Lamb

Article excerpt

Cheerful. Bright. Sweet. Inoffensive.

That's the current take on Impressionism. Pretty paintings from the past, easy on the eye and the intellect. The favorite blockbuster museum show.

An exhibition this summer is trying to rough up that comfortable image. The Impressionists were, at least in part, it says, rebels reacting to rapid changes in life as the "modern age" dawned in the late-19th century.

Some contemporary critics considered the work of the Impressionists as merely unfinished sketches: anarchic, shocking, even revolting. Others caught a glimpse of what they were trying to do. "They are 'impressionists' in the sense that they render not the landscape, but the sensation produced by the landscape," wrote one critic in 1874.

"Impression: Painting Quickly in France, 1860-1890" at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., pulls together 77 paintings by Manet, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Degas, and Van Gogh (although not an Impressionist, he is an important successor) from 37 museums and seven private collections in 10 countries. Twelve of them have never been exhibited before in the United States.

Academic painting at the time required elaborate planning, with a final product that was the work of many sessions. The Impressionists liked to work outdoors and produce works that looked as though they were painted in haste in one session, even if sometimes that wasn't the case.

Edouard Manet painted from his boat moored on the Seine. "There is only one true way: Paint from the very beginning what you see. If you get it, you get it. If you don't, start over. All the rest is just

fooling around," he said.

In Manet's "The Races at Longchamp" (1866), a pack of horses and jockeys charges the viewer. It's a moment in time, a camera click. …

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