French Impressionist Painting

French Impressionist painting is currently the most popular of all European bodies of art. Part of the romance of Impressionism comes from the stories of uphill struggles against the Academic painters and critics who dominated 19th-century French art, only to be swept into obscurity by the artists they had scorned. However, a reaction was bound to set in, and during the final decades of the 20th century, a number of politically oriented critics began to argue that far from being radicals, the Impressionists appealed to bourgeois tastes partly because their technique was easy to digest and their subject matter inoffensive. They point out that the industrialization of Europe is rarely reflected in their works, and that they paid little or no attention to the sufferings of the urban poor. Many of them were acutely conscious of their popularity, and eager to cash in on it.

This school of thought has had next to no impact on popular opinion, which still embraces the Impressionists fervently; but it did have an apparent impact on the series we are using for this course: Art of the Western World, hosted by Michael Wood. Rather than devoting an entire episode to the Impressionists, he covers them rather hastily in a much larger context. Since I find the "case" against the Impressionists rather shallow, I am supplementing the videotape you will be watching with this Web assignment, to give you a broader acquaintance with this important art movement.

First view the videotape, "Art of the Western World, 7: A Fresh View: Impressionism and Post-Impressionism" and do the writing assignment in The Bridge threaded discussion on this tape.

Later, for the second Impressionism assignment, you will return to this page and do the following:

Begin by reading the article on "Impressionism" in the Encylopedia Britannica (accessible through the WSU Libraries).

Impressionism (Search for "impressionism" and click on the first link offered.) Note that you have to scroll down past a blank spot to see the rest of the article. Look at the sample linked pictures by clicking on the small thumbnails on the left. You can stop at the point where the article begins to discuss Impressionist music, beginning with Claude Debussy.

Then, scroll back up to the top of the article and click on the names of two of the Impressionist artists listed there and read what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say about them. You'll have to click on the artist's name at the top of the table of contents in each case to get to the main article on the artist.

Finally, return to the "Impressionism" article where you started and scroll down to the "Related Internet Links" and explore them:

The Writing Assignment

Choose some one aspect of this material to discuss and react to in in a comment of about 50 to 100 words. Be sure to discuss individual works and artists. Try to be specific. Look at other students' comments and compare them with your own.

Weblinks: