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The Precursors of Impressionism

By Béa Aaronson

This is part one of my impressionist adventure, the retinal reality of the ephemeral. What is Impressionism? It’s like a bouquet of flowers. Each flower has differently shaped petals, different colors, different scents, but all together they form a bouquet. The bouquet is the group of Impressionist painters … and each flower is an artist … Camille Pissarro, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Eva Gonzales, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas, Jean Frédéric Bazille, Gustave Caillebotte, Auguste Renoir, and of course, Claude Monet. They are all different. But together, they lived and led an incredible revolution in the art of seeing, feeling, and painting. Japanese woodcuts fueled this esthetic revolution, in the choice of subject matter—ordinary life, pleasures of life, nature, weather effects—and in the choice of vibrating colors, asymmetrical composition, cropped and aerial perspective. The invention of the paint tube also allowed this revolution to take place, because the true Impressionist will leave the stuffy studio to go OUTSIDE and paint EN PLEIN AIR, in the open air. Without the portable tube of paint, this would have been impossible!

“The Precursors of Impressionism”
By Béa Aaronson, PhD
Mon, Nov 14, 4pm
The Jewish Cultural Center of San Miguel
Calle De Las Moras 47 (corner Cinco De Mayo)
150 pesos per person

But this artistic revolution did not happen ex nihilo! However abrupt, brutal, seemingly spontaneous, impulsive, and instinctive, all revolutions are consciously or unconsciously fomented and prepared. The seismic break can be felt and registered a long time before, with subtle or powerful prophetic tremors. And indeed there were precursors of mighty strength who paved the way to what I call “the retinal reality of the ephemeral.”

In this first part of my Impressionist adventure, we shall discover the premises of this revolutionary artistic liberation—whether in subject matter, the quality of the brush stroke, composition, or the handling of color—in the work of Rococo painters, such as Fragonard, Quentin Latour, Boucher, who flirted with the frivolous, the pretty, and the intimate and did not hesitate to make their brushes vibrate to the rhythm of pleasure; Romantic artists such as John Constable and his bucolic vision, William Turner and his pyromaniac obsession with light, as well as Delacroix and his passion for movement, his energy-packed thick impasto of color as well as his vibrating dissociated brushstrokes—the first steps toward the emancipation of color; we shall savor together the beauty of L’Ecole de Barbizon with Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Charles-François Daubigny, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-François Millet, and their sensitive apprehension of nature and weather effects; feel the power of Gustave Courbet’s down-to-earth realism, as well as his clashing tormented waves which unleashed energy and movement. And then there is, of course, Johann Jongkind, whom Manet regarded as the forerunner of all Impressionists, and whose immense skies, seascapes, and subtle weather effects inspired Eugène Boudin, the King of Skies, and Monet’s mentor and initiator.

I invite you for a great adventure in History of Art, to meet all of these ground-breaking artists who, one way or another, did participate in making the Impressionist revolution possible.

Impressionism Part Two will take place Monday, November 21.

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