I bill myself as Dede Farrar, Impressionist Painter of Animals. It’s got me thinking. Is that accurate? My latest work, as yet untitled, has me thinking, yes. And I look back into the works I’ve created in the past few months and I say yes, again. Why? Because of the use of color, expressive, choppy brush strokes, and the use of the photograph.
Impressionism. A style of art loved by many of people of today, NOW. But what did they say back THEN? Claude Monet is credited with really starting the label Impressionism. And it wasn’t him that made that label. It was a journalist dissing his work. Guess we’ve got the last laugh, ey?
Impressionists of the mid 19th Century made a new way of painting using choppy brushstrokes that people could see. It was “fast” painting. Impressionism had to do with light and color. Light is fleeting. If you watch the moon or sun rise you see how fast the light changes. You had to be fast to capture that. Or maybe there was another way. Maybe there was a photo to look at.
Back in the late 1860s and early 1870s photography was becoming a new technology more people had access to. Very baaaad news for artists. You see, artists, up to that time period, had earned their living rendering a realistic likeness on what they saw, and what the patron who was paying for it wanted. Who could afford a portrait? Or a girlie girl painting to hang on their private castle bedroom wall? Not people like you and me, regular folk. Rich, nobles and wealthy tradesmen. Yes, I said men.
When the camera came along, the lens captured a real likeness. It wasn’t always a pretty likeness. It was what the camera lens saw and nothing more. Real life. That’s what artists had been for—to capture that likeness. Well, not really, because artists are creative and they could make people better looking and more glamorous than in real life. But it took a lot of sittings.
The invention of photography could capture a moment. A moment in action. A moment captured forever. Then the artist could take that image and do whatever he pleased with it. Yes I said “he.” There were a few wonderful female Impressionists, like Mary Cassatt, for example. Back to the subject at hand. Stay focused, Farrar.
Some artists just love breaking rules. In the mid 19th century art academies taught “real” artists what was expected of them. But when the camera broke out into wide knowledge, some artists wanted to paint what was actually happening—a snapshot in time, plus they were sick of being kicked out of Academy shows. Japanese printmaking also had a big impact on the Impressionists as the Eastern way of composition was totally different than the European thought about composition. Japanese prints were used as packing materials in many ships bringing spices, tea, other tradable goods from the far East to Europe in the mid 19th century. Eastern composition was “weird,” more like a camera might capture. Major subjects cut off at the borders of the image, diagonal views, skewed perspectives. New idea! To Europeans anyway.
Some of the artists in France, including Monet, got sick of being excluded from French Academy shows and therefore, having no way to show anyone their paintings. They started their own art group and started having their own shows. Claude Monets’s Impression Sunrise was the first painting stuck with label Impressionism. We have him to thank for that. Thank you, you rebel Monet.