The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library welcomes back art history lecturer Linda Blair with a new series, Impressionism Plus Two. For many years now, Blair has been one of the Athenaeum’s most popular speakers.
Impressionism was the product of a handful of gifted, 19th century French artists that lasted, at most, two decades. This transformative movement was both epilogue and prologue: epilogue because it ended the traditional art of the previous four centuries, and prologue because it opened the floodgates for 20th century art.
This lecture series will explore the historic context, personalities, theories and techniques of Impressionism. The fatigue of traditional art—art born in the workshops ofFlorencefour hundred years before—forced these innovative and skilled artists to invent new ways of rendering reality and to develop a new visual acuity.
The series will focus on four of the most revolutionary artists of 19th century France: Impressionists Edouard Manet and Claude Monet, and Post-Impressionists, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne. Each of these four painters ripped painting away from traditional artistic assumptions and practice. Manet, an haute bourgeois, elegant and charming, did revolutionary things in art, yet he never understood why he was compelled to paint as he did and yearned for the same respectability for his art that he enjoyed in life. Monet, who most exemplifies Impressionism and whose work demonstrates some of its key ideas, quickly moved beyond it. Van Gogh, who introduced a new subjectivism into painting with his emotive use of color, personalized the romantic notion of the misunderstood and socially marginal. Each of the four artists propelled art into the 20th century. The series will conclude with a little-known anecdote relating the American role in rescuing these avant-garde artists from failure and ignominy, and insight into the allure and appeal of Impressionism to 19th century Americans.