monet impression sunrise photo
From the 15th April to 15th May 1874 Monet exhibited his work together with Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Édouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and some other thirty artists. They organized their exhibition on their own as they were usually rejected at the Paris Salon. Most visitors were disgusted and even outraged over such a graffiti. Monet’s Impression, Sunrise enjoyed the most attention and some visitors even claimed that they were absolutely unable to recognize what was shown at all.
A critic who attended the exhibition, M. Louis Leroy, wrote a now famous article in Le Charivari in which he used the term “Impressionist” based on the title of this painting. Despite the fact that Leroy had used the word derisively, the group decided to adopt it and painters such as Renoir and Degas were happy to be called Impressionists
Following 1874 and the rise of the Impressionist movement, Monet recalled Impression, Sunrise by naming other works with similar titles. The subtitles recalled Impression, Sunrise in style and influence, though their subjects varied. Examples of similarly titles works are Effet de brouillard, impression in 1879, L’Impression in 1883, Garden at Bordighera, Impression of Morning in 1884, Marine (impression) in 1887, and Fumées dans le brouillard, impression in 1904. These works then seemed as a continuation of his Le Havre scene, “one of the sequence of canvases in which he was seeking to capture the most fleeting natural effects, as a display of his painterly virtuosity.”  Evoking the name of Impression, Sunrise, but also providing stylistic connections, the later paintings are similarly “quite summary and economical in handling, and depict particularly hazy or misty effects” that is characteristic of Monet’s impressionism in particular. 
However, this idyllic perspective of the exhibition was not the view of all critics. Louis Leroy, for Le Charivari, is often quoted in his review on Monet’s work. His article “The Impressionist Exhibition” is written as a dialogue from the imaginary perspective of an old-fashioned painter, shocked at the works of Monet and his associates:
In 1840, Claude Monet was born in Paris, France. When he was five years old, his family relocated to Le Havre, a seaside town in Normandy. Here, Monet developed his interest in art, which was fostered by his enrollment in an art school in 1851. Even as an adolescent, Monet’s work was popular; locals would regularly purchase his prized charcoal studies.
“A landscape is only an impression, instantaneous, hence the label they’ve given us—all because of me, for that matter,” Monet recalled. “I’d submitted something done out of my window at Le Havre, sunlight in the mist with a few masts in the foreground jutting up from the ships below. They wanted a title for the catalog; it couldn’t really pass as a view of Le Havre, so I answered: ‘Put down Impression.’ Out of that they got impressionism, and the jokes proliferated . . . “
This work was painted from a hotel window at Le Havre in 1873 (Monet later dated it incorrectly to 1872). It was one of the nine works that he showed at the First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874. Of all those displayed there, this is probably the most famous picture, not so much because of any crucial status within Monet’s oeuvre, but rather for the criticism it attracted from the reviewers, which gave rise to the name of the movement. On 25 April, ten days after the exhibition had opened, an article appeared in the satirical journal Le Charivari in which the critic Louis Leroy described a fictitious conversation between two visitors. One of them was a landscape painter who, while looking at this work, exclaimed: ‘Impressionism, I knew it; after all I’m impressed so it must be an impression. What freedom! What ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than this seascape!’ The article was entitled ‘The Exhibition of the Impressionists’, and the label stuck thereafter, as well as being used by such other critics of the exhibition as Castagnary.
Despite its notoriety the painting is in some ways untypical of Monet’s own work of this period and of Impressionism more generally. It shows little of the Impressionist treatment of light and color. The colors are very restrained and the paint is applied not in discrete brushstrokes of contrasting colours but in very thin washes. In some places the canvas is even visible and the only use of impasto is in the depiction of the reflected sunlight on the water. The painting is strongly atmospheric rather than analytical and has a spirit somewhat akin to Turner’s works. Nevertheless, it does illustrate particularly well one of the features of Impressionist painting that was thought so revolutionary. The technique is very ‘sketchy’ and would have been seen as a preliminary study for a painting rather than a finished work suitable for exhibition. (Monet himself saw the work as unfinished, and it was for that reason that he adopted the title ‘Impression’ to distinguish it from such works as his other view of Le Havre in the same exhibition, though this too lacks the finish then expected.) In this work Monet stripped away the details to a bare minimum: the dockyards in the background are merely suggested by a few brushstrokes as are the boats in the foreground. The whole represents the artist’s swift attempt to capture a fleeting moment. The highly visible, near abstract technique, compels almost more attention than the subjectmatter itself, a notion then wholly alien to viewers.
We gratefully acknowledge the use of material from MONET (2002) by Trewin Copplestone, an essential read for anyone interested in the history of painting.
NOTE: For the story behind French Impressionism and the group of talented artists who created it, see our 10-part series, beginning: Impressionism: Origins, Influences.