Musée d'Orsay: Impressionism : the Origins, 1859-1869

Impressionism : the Origins, 1859-1869

Eugène BoudinTrouville Beach© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / DR
In 1869, the beginnings of what was to be called from 1874 onwards "impressionism" were already in place. The exhibition, first event covering the origins of impressionism, gathered works by young painters - Monet, Renoir, Pissaro and Bazille on the one hand, Manet, Degas and Fantin-Latour on the other - demonstrated for the first time the diversity of currents and influences that led to impressionism. Made up from around 180 works of art, this exhibition also featured paintings by Boudin, Cézanne, Courbet, Daubigny, Puvis de Chavannes, Tissot, Whistler... lent by public and private collections in Europe and North America.

An evocation of the 1859 salon made it possible to assess the state of French painting at the time when those who would become "the impressionists" made their début. The thematic variety in the work of these artists, which is too often associated solely with landscape painting, was subsequently presented : history painting, portrait, still-life. The thematic renewal prompted a new way of painting which combined boldness of composition with a new freedom of stroke. Within ten years, a small number of artists from different origins and social backgrounds, who made up a disparate and changing movement, took over the example taught by Courbet and the realists, and inspired throughout the world the modern and consensual feeling of the style as "the most beautiful period in art".


Henri Loyrette, chief curator, Musée d'Orsay and Gary Tinterow, Engelhart curator of European Paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)

25 April - 25 July 1994

Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais

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