English Romantics: John Constable
French Realists: Gustave Courbet
The Pre-Impressionists helped kick-start the Impressionistic Revolution. Paris and France were the centre for Art – the Academie – in the first half of the 19th Century. They had a recipe for what was successful as good art (as did London’s Royal Academy). It had to have a moral or religious theme, and a high degree of technical skill, with a finish to the surface so that no brushstrokes showed.
The Council of the Royal Academy (London) Selecting Pictures for the Exhibition
by Charles West Cope
Paintings were filled with idealised figures of perfect men and women, usually representing Gods. The artists used tonal under-painting in Sepia, then added glazes of colour over the top. The result was of subtle tones and muted hues. The paintings had to be huge in size, and were mostly hung in galleries, museums, or the homes of the rich. Also they were mostly narrative in content.
Underpainting; Portrait of Clara Serena Rubens – Peter Paul Rubens
With the coming of the Industrial Revolution attitudes began changing. In England John Constable and Joseph Turner began to concentrate on landscape painting. Using the new portable oils, Constable made quick oil sketches on location, capturing the light and atmosphere by using flecks of pure white paint and touches of red. He took these sketches back to his studio where he then produced the finished painting, which, while being more subdued and smoother in texture than the sketch, still retained the atmospheric light of the latter. He created the physical sensation of nature, and used pure colour throughout the painting – this appealed to the Impressionists, who adopted it.
The Hay Wain – 1821 – Constable
Joseph Turner was taken by the different moods of light, and atmosphere – cold, warm, or misty – he was interested in the emotional side of light, rather than the scientific side. Although he often obscured the subject matter of his works with mist – e.g. Venice paintings – they were correct, and never dull. There was no sombreness in his paintings, and his clever emotional approach to atmospherics was picked up by the revolutionists.
The Dogano, San Giorgio, Citella from the Steps – Turner
In France, Gustave Courbet and Honore Daumier were Realists. They were concerned with the subject matter, and made socially realistic comments about the changes in society. There was now not so vast a difference between the rich and poor classes, with a growing middle class, and with the advent of a leisure day on Sunday. They accepted the code of the Acadamie but deviated in subject matter – they saw working class people rather than Gods and Goddesses, and depicted these at work and during their times of leisure.
The Stonebreakers – Courbet
Gustave Courbet depicted Realism minus the religious ideals, painting ugly people, with bulging hips and work-worn hands – peasants as they really looked, people warts and all. This was considered revolutionary. His palette was subdued and his technique traditional. He made no statement himself – just asked people to look at the painting and relate it to the realities of life. This was adopted by the revolutionists.
Meeting of thirty-five heads of expression – Daumier
Honore Daumier used an intelligent approach to art, presenting the facts as he saw them, with no ideals or sentimentality. He showed the underlying character of the subject – types of people such as farmers, peasants, factory workers. He was labelled a characaturist, was a superb draftsman, and used exaggeration to punctuate the statement. The revolutionists took his honesty.
TRANSITIONAL ARTIST – EDOUARD MANET.
He was the last great realist and the first Impressionist, although he never aligned himself with them. His works of 1850 – 1870 linked the standards of the old with the new. They were so academic and perfect in their presentation, yet at the same time were totally impressionistic in style. He wanted to be accepted by the Salon but his own style took him away. He often took the subject matter from the establish art, but made them his own. The best example of this is the painting LUNCHEON ON THE GRASS which he based on THE JUDGEMENT OF PARIS, but clothed the men in contemporary attire, while their naked female companion was a known lady of the street.
Luncheon on the Grass – Manet
He said, “You’ve got to belong to your own period and paint what you see.”
He had to be a modern artist, and was always an individual. He was influenced by the old masters – Rembrandt, Raphael, etc. He learnt from his contemporaries, but never considered himself one of them. Although he re-did classical themes in a modern style, he was not accepted by the Salon.
Le Printemps 1881 – Manet
He used bold colourful hues, economy of detail – simplistic – created the idea of a pattern rather than the volume of the figure in space. He flattened out with broad areas of colour, allowing brushstrokes to show. He used light against dark contrast – as did Goya – he used black as a colour, rather than as aid to creating tone. His works showed an understanding and appreciation of Impressionism, and he could be said to be the father of Impressionism – although he would not have agreed. He was unique.
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(C) Jud House 7/09/2016
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