by Nina Baldwin

cloud catcher*dream maker*artist

"Art touches the is reaches out from the canvas and passes through the eyes of the viewer right into his heart where it can leave an imprint of beauty that can make the spirit sing."
Nina Baldwin ...

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

IMPRESSIONISM - a Time of Transition for more than just Art

1860 to 1870...the time of Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir...Art was not the only thing transitioning in France at this time. Great changes were taking place in Paris, for instance, with the razing of the narrow cobblestoned streets which were replaced with grand boulevards lined with shops and cafes..."light-filled sunny promenades" where the elite could stroll, lunching and enjoying some of the finer things in life.
Society was changing. Life no longer centered around agriculture (a favorite subject matter for the realist painters in Paris). Modern city life brought with it cafes, racetracks, parks, concerts, balls, the opera and the ballet. It also brought grand changes in the appearance of the city...on the outside...but behind the great facade of opulence lay the "underworld", the world of the common folk who serviced the sophisticates of the Second Empire...
This is what Manet and Degas painted...not the traditional historical scenes, or scenes on the farm that the realist artists painted...they wanted to paint life...reality...everyday people living their ordinary lives...landscapes and still lifes also, both unacceptable according to the status quo. Monet and the other young artists were greatly influenced by this.
While preference for subject matter was changing, artists were finding new techniques more suited to their tastes. Glazes of transparent paints were in less favor, while "loading" the canvas with more opaque, brighter paints became the favorite of the Impressionists. Paints were going through their own evolution as more and more artists found the convenience of the first tin tubes of paint easily usable for plein aire painting. Previously, pigments had to be crushed, ground to a fine powder, then mixed with linseed oil and perhaps wax, then stored in an animal bladder. The colors provided in the tube paints were brighter more "modern" shades than the traditional more somber colors...thus the beautiful, vibrating colors of Monet's garden and the haystacks... be continued...


  1. Nina,
    You paint a word picture of Paris in the 1870's that is worthy of an artist. I happen to be reading of the period right now, especially taken with Mallarme's well-known essay on Manet. Amazing how few critics of the period, apart from Mallarme, were appreciative of the revolution that was to sweep the art world. All fascinating stuff, and you do it entire justice.

  2. Robert,
    Thank you so much for the compliments!
    I don't know who Mallarme is...will have to do some research on that! thanks!
    I do find this time (impressionism) in the art world to be very exciting! ...especially since nowadays the pendulum seems to be swinging from abstract back to realism...perhaps we are experiencing a minor revolution of our own! Changes and the reasons for them intrigue me these days...
    it's great to converse with you about it, Robert! Thanks!