Impressionism and the water

How Art Shapes Our Lives

Sal MaccaroneJune 11, 2013 

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Special to Sierra Star Claude Monet's impressionist painting "Regatta at Argenteuil."

SPECIAL TO SIERRA STAR CLAUDE MONET'S IMPRESSIONIST PAINTING "REGATTA AT ARGENTEUIL." — Special to Sierra Star Claude Monet's impressionist painting "Regatta at Argenteuil."

Impressionism can be defined as: "a theory or practice in painting of depicting the natural appearances of objects by means of dabs and strokes of unmixed colors in order to simulate reflected light." This, of course, was done originally by certain French painters who lived and worked during the 1870's. The Impressionist movement received its name as a result of a Claude Monet work titled "Impression Sunrise." This painting received a satirical review in a French newspaper, which ultimately branded the whole movement. Ordinary subject matter, coupled with an illusion of motion and an accurate rendering of light, were the trademarks of these paintings.

Like so many artistic upheavals, the Impressionist movement was actually a revolution. An alliance was formed by a loosely bound group of artists for the purpose of exhibiting their art, and this was quite contrary to the politics of that era. At that time the government of France dictated what artworks, and consequently what artists, were deemed to be acceptable.

Radicals in their time, the Impressionists quite simply broke the rules of academic painting. For one thing, they took their painting outside. These artists would sometimes paint the same scene at different times of day with quite different results. Before the Impressionist movement, still lifes, portraits and landscapes were all usually painted indoors. The Impressionists were not at all interested in painting subjects from history; but rather, scenes from their own contemporary time. This revolutionary way of painting was a precursor to many artistic movements that followed, including: Post-Impressionism, Surrealism, Cubisim and modern art.

There is a wonderful exhibition in San Francisco which has been titled, "Impressionists on the Water." It is open to the public at the Legion of Honor museum in Lincoln Park until Oct. 13, 2013. This exhibition was purposely scheduled to coincide with San Francisco's hosting of the America Cup races this year. The curator's intent was to demonstrate the "artistic side" of nautical life, which, in fact, is revealed through these remarkable works of art.

There are close to 100 paintings on loan from all over the world, which go to examine the impressionist movement and the early fascination with the outdoors. Some of the artists that are represented in this exhibit include: Pierre-Auguste Renoir; Claude Monet; Camille Pissarro; Maurice Denis; and Paul Signac. This, in my opinion, is a chance of a lifetime to see some very important works.

Details: www.famsf.org/legion

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