paul tucker the first impressionist exhibition and monet’s impression: sunrise

Paul tucker the first impressionist exhibition and monet’s impression: sunrise
Before the 1860s and the debut of Impression, Sunrise, the term “impressionism” was originally used to describe the effect of a natural scene on a painter, and the effect of a painting on the viewer. By the 1860s, “impression” was used by transference to describe a painting which relayed such an effect. [9] In turn, impression came to describe the movement as a whole.
Leroy’s review is a covert backhand at the progressiveness of Impression, Sunrise, and is often attributed with the using the term impressionism for the first time.

Paul tucker the first impressionist exhibition and monet’s impression: sunrise
[10] Lyon, Christopher. “Unveiling Monet.” MoMA 7 (1991): 14-23. Print.
Through the examination of specific characteristics apparent in the painting, we are able to identify the distinguished artistic style of Monet. As a notable artist, Claude Monet was acknowledged for his awareness of color harmony and his ability to enforce viewers’ attention. He was widely known for capturing rich atmospheric effects and a particular moment in time in his works of art.[5] To accomplish these feats, Monet employed broken brushwork and heightened color. He was also very sensitive to the moods created by a landscape; in his own words he explained his method of depicting the feeling of a scene:

Paul tucker the first impressionist exhibition and monet’s impression: sunrise
While Monet had been depicting beach scenes in and around Sainte-Adresse as early as 1868, it was not until the summer of 1870 that he followed the example of his mentor, Boudin, and introduced closer studies of fashionable vacationers on the same beaches. Monet may have been influenced also by changes in his personal life: he had married Camille Doncieux in Paris in June 1870 – possibly to avoid military service – and by late June they were on their way, with their son Jean, to a holiday in Trouville. Cultural historian Robert Herbert comments that it was rather more up-market than Sainte-Adresse, and that for Monet it had the added allure of having been the site where Courbet and Boudin had worked. Indeed, since Courbet had been involved at Monet’s marriage ceremony, he well might have waxed lyrical about his own previous painting excursions to Trouville in 1865-1866.
Monet responded enthusiastically to this stylish holiday retreat. He painted three views of the elegant beachfront hotels and boardwalks, including L’Hotel des Roches noires (1870, Musée d’Orsay). He also executed four small canvases of his newly-wed wife Camille relaxing on the beach. The best-known example is On the Beach (1870, National Gallery, London).

Paul tucker the first impressionist exhibition and monet’s impression: sunrise
The abiding metaphor of the catalogue’s title should not be taken lightly in this regard, however strange the notion of a painting’s “biography.” Essays detail the picture’s origins and paternity, the inevitable quarrels over its name, and its eventual coming to rest in the Marmottan. Contributions from a range of predominantly French curators, including the exhibition’s organizers Dominique Lobstein and Marianne Mathieu, have much of interest to say on these matters. The focus is on solving a range of longstanding disputes in the scholarship on the painting, rather than providing a more expansive context in which to understand the picture. Individual chapters explore the influences on Monet’s conception of the painting; examine the port of Le Havre where Monet painted it; recount the reception of the picture when it was first exhibited; and, perhaps inevitably, provide a detailed chronology of the painting’s provenance and the circumstances of its entering into the museum’s collection.
But as studies of the reception of Impressionism have extensively shown, Cardon’s criticisms were by no means typical of the reception of Monet’s work, which was far less antagonistic than sometimes portrayed (see, for instance, Paul Tucker, “The First Exhibition in Context,” in Charles S. Moffett, ed., The New Painting: Impressionism 1874–1886, Geneva: Richard Burton SA, Publishers, 1986, 93–144). Lobstein’s focus on the more polemical criticism distorts the actual reception of the Impressionist artists. Despite some critics’ sharp tone, most were responsive, in varying degrees, to the Impressionists’ technical innovations and embrace of contemporary subjects, and were appreciative of Monet’s work. The unorthodox high viewpoint and vibrant suggestion of movement of Monet’s Boulevard des Capucines (1873–74), for example, drew special praise from respected critics like Ernest Chesneau. Despite his reservations about its lack of conventional finish and traditional draughtsmanship, he called the picture “a masterpiece” that “anticipated the painting of the future” (Ernest Chesneau, “A coté du Salon II. Le plein air: Exposition du boulevard des Capucines,” Paris-Journal [May 7, 1874]).

There has been some debate as to whether the Getty marine or the much more well-known painting in the Musée Marmottan was the one shown in the landmark 1874 exhibition in Nadar’s studio on the boulevard des Capucines in Paris. The catalogue simply lists the picture as Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), offering no dimensions, provenance information, or description. 15 Contemporary journalistic reviews of the exhibition, including the infamously satirical lampoon of Impression, Sunrise by Louis Leroy in Le charivari, also do not provide any specific account. 16 Acting on a suggestion of Daniel Wildenstein, John Rewald argued in 1961 that the Getty painting, then in a private French collection, was the one exhibited in 1874, citing a description given by Monet in the 1898 interview mentioned above: “I had something I painted from my window in Le Havre: the sun in the fog and in the foreground some masts sticking up.” 17 The mention of masts in the foreground corresponds more closely to the Getty painting than to the one in the Musée Marmottan. Rewald also noted that the reddish sun in the latter seems to be setting rather than rising; indeed, that painting was acquired as Impression, Sunset by the Romanian collector Georges de Bellio at the 1878 Hoschedé sale. 18 Furthermore, since the de Bellio/Marmottan picture was shown in the 1879 Impressionist exhibition, Rewald suggested that it was unlikely that Monet would have shown the same picture five years earlier, as he was not in the habit of thus repeating himself. 19

  • Scott C. Allan
    Written 2008, revised 2012


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