IMPRESSIONISM

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 IMPRESSIONISM

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مُساهمةموضوع: IMPRESSIONISM   2011-08-09, 19:43

The impressionist movement
began in the visual art world of Paris in the 1860s. The painters who
were considered the first “impressionists,” including Auguste Renoir
(1841–1919), Camille Pissarro (1830–1903), and Claude Monet (1840–1926),
among others, were influenced by contemporary advances in the science
of optics that dealt with various aspects of light and color, recent
philosophical ideas about the nature of time, and the relatively new
study of psychology, which posited notions about perception and
comprehension. Their work makes use of color, light, and shadow in ways
that attempt to convey one’s immediate perception of a scene on the
canvas. Their primary concern was with expressing the nature of reality
through their artistic medium rather than in establishing a “school” of
art. The word “impressionism” came to be associated with these ideas
rather by accident, when a critic assigned the title of an 1873 Monet
painting (Impression, Sunrise) to the group—with derogatory intent.

Impressionist
painting techniques were initially a reaction against the traditional
techniques of realism espoused by the art schools of Paris in the latter
half of the nineteenth century, coupled with new discoveries about the
nature of color and how the eye perceives it. Painters experimented with
ways of depicting light and color, juxtaposing spots of color, for
example, and letting the eye—or the brain—fuse them together in the mind
of the perceiver, thus producing more intense hues than could be
produced by mixing the colors on the palette.

Many who did not
appreciate the works of the early impressionists supposed that the
painters were settling for less than they were capable of—exhibiting
unfinished sketches as though they were finished pieces, for example.
Rather than belabor the minute details of a scene, these painters often
worked quickly, frequently supplying minor brush strokes to provide
suggestions rather than more fully rendered depictions of objects. The
aim of such renderings, however, was not to depict a photographic
reality but to capture the essence of a fleeting moment—a glimpse,
rather than a long gaze—on the canvas. Such an aim demands suggestion
and innuendo rather than infinitesimally exact details because by its
very nature a momentary glance can provide little else. These artists
believed that reality is frequently less than exact; one’s perception of
a scene can be blurry or obscured. In addition, they reasoned that
because time is ever-moving and our perceptions are ever-changing, the
same object appears differently at various times and from various
vantage points. This acknowledgment of perceptive diversity prompted
some painters to depict in a series of works the same object presented
from different angles or at different times of the day.

Impressionism
is not confined to the visual arts alone, however. It is also a
significant movement in music and literature. The art world of Paris in
the 1860s and 1870s was a vibrant community in which painters,
musicians, and writers frequently discussed ideas and shared their
experiments with each other. Thus, impressionism as a movement
developed simultaneously in painting, music, and literature, and the
intermingling of artists in various media established new relationships
among the art forms as well.

The term “impressionism” was very
controversial for the first several decades of its use. In the 1890s it
was considered the antithesis of Victorianism. According to the critic
Edwin H. Cady, “it stood for the liberation of the artist from the
academy and tradition, from formalism and ideality, from narrative, and
finally even from realism; for realism demanded responsibility to the
common vision and impressionism responsibility only to what the unique
eye of the painter saw. It was also a swearword for conservatives of
every variety” (p. 132).
In terms of literature, however, the word
has had more varied connotations. While some have used it with derision,
others have applied it much more positively. Cady comments that “it was
repeatedly the highest praise of Joseph Conrad and Edward Garnett in
England that [Stephen] Crane was an impressionist; it made him
triumphantly avant garde” (p. 132).

LITERARY IMPRESSIONISM: AN AESTHETIC

When
impressionism is manifested in literature it can be addressed both as
an aesthetic and as a collection of specific techniques. As an
aesthetic, impressionism assumes that the only way people live and come
to any understanding of human life is through sensory experience. The
primary purpose of impressionism, then, both in the visual arts and in
literature, is to render the sensory nature of life itself. In painting,
this means that artists attempt to render what they actually see—the
reflections of light on objects or water, the shimmer of a summer day,
or the blurry surfaces of a rain-swept street. In literature, the
writer’s interest becomes making the reader “see” the narrative
described. The effect, in the words of the literary critic James Nagel,
is “to convey to the reader the basic impressions of life that a single
human consciousness could receive in a given place during a restricted
duration of time” (p. 21). The early-twentiethcentury author and critic
Ford Madox Ford (1873–1939) emphasizes the role of immediacy in
impressionist description when he claims that any piece of
Impressionism, whether it be prose, or verse, or painting, or sculpture,
is the record of the impression of a moment; it is not a sort of
rounded, annotated record of a set of circumstances—it is the record of
the recollection in your mind of a set of circumstances that happened
ten years ago—or ten minutes. It might even be the impression of the
moment but it is the impression, not the corrected chronicle. (P. 41)

Thus
impressions are immediate and complete; commentary or explanation is
not provided. They are presented directly, as a means of producing
similar impressions on the reader as they did on the writer and
conveying these impressions along with the associated meaning of related
sensations. Because the reader is never told how to respond to these
details— the details themselves are the conveyors of meaning—meaning
itself tends to operate more on an emotional than intellectual level,
though both are possible.

Impressionism also involves a
philosophical assumption related directly to the nature of reality: it
posits that there is a distinction between reality as it is perceived
and reality itself. Nagel points out, the logic of Realism depends on a
consistent reliability of both interpretation and perception; the logic
of Impressionism suggests that this correspondence is never certain and
that the inscrutability and flux of life are its fundamental reality.
Impressionistic fiction involves the constant interplay between
experience and comprehension . . . qualified by the constant awareness
that any description or presentation of reality is dependent upon the
clarity with which it is perceived. (P. 22)

IMPRESSIONIST TECHNIQUES

The
impressionist aesthetic, focusing on the sensory nature of life, the
immediacy of perception, and the subjective interpretation of reality,
is conveyed by writers through several techniques or combinations of
techniques that involve narrative methods, characterization, figurative
devices, and structure and form. The most common form of narration is
limited third person, which limits the narrator’s perceptions to the
level of a character in the story. Narrators may be objective or
subjective, and their perceptions may blur with those of a character at
times. Characters, especially protagonists, are often in flux, seeking
understanding about their lives or their situations but not always
achieving a clear vision of such. They are very much affected by what
happens to them in the moment, and their perceptions change as their
experiences influence them. Figurative devices are primarily sensory
images, often focusing on color and light, whose meaning must be derived
from context because the narrator’s grasp of the “truth” may be in
question. Meaning for the impressionists is arrived at through
suggestion rather than concrete presentation. Through the use of
reflections, eroded contours and blurred images, impressionists often
evoke a mood or sensation rather than deliver a complete physical
description.

Maria Kronegger, in her study of Literary
Impressionism (1973), aptly points out that in the work of the
impressionists there is more stress on connotation than denotation (p.
47). As a result, the form or structure of an impressionist work is
often fragmented or episodic. Because the sensory images are passed
along directly and in a series of fragments whose meaning is contained
in the juxtaposition of these images, impressionism requires the reader
to be an active participant in the process of making meaning.

The
early-twentieth-century critic Harry Hartwick, in The Foreground of
American Fiction (1934), clearly puts into perspective the roles of the
writer and the reader regarding the handling of sensory imagery within
the impressionistic narrative: “Impressionism is a sensory kodaking, a
confused mosaic of details, a rivulet of hyphenated photographs, which
the reader . . . must fuse into some eventual relationship” (p. 37).
Hartwick and others have described it as a “telegraphic style” in terms
of the speed and brevity of the presentation. It might also be likened
to the telegraph in its form; the procession of images passes along in
chunks and then is reconstructed at the other end. Reliance on this
flood of images wreaks havoc on the traditional form and structure of
the novel as “experience becomes a series of ‘intense moments’; plot
loses its importance, and from an interest in the larger aspects of
[one’s] product, the author turns to an interest in ‘the bright,
particular world’” (p. 37). For the impressionists, “experience . . .
should be broken into fragments, each fragment to be respected for its
own sake, each passing moment or passion to be welcomed individually and
squeezed dry before it can escape us” (p. 41). It is in this way, via
the passing on of sensory fragments, that the impressionists seek to
convey a representation of reality to the minds of readers where it can
be received and understood with directness and immediacy.

STEPHEN CRANE: THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE

The
author Joseph Conrad (1857–1924), himself a practitioner of
impressionist prose, once admiringly called Stephen Crane (1871–1900)
“the foremost impressionist of his time” (p. 126). Although Crane’s
works have been variously described as realistic, naturalistic,
imagistic, symbolistic, and impressionistic—indeed there are elements of
all such styles in his canon—the lens of impressionism is perhaps most
instructive, especially when considering his masterpiece, The Red Badge
of Courage (1895). This story focuses on an especially stressful time in
the life of its protagonist Henry Fleming, namely his involvement in a
series of engagements during the Civil War. The changes that Henry
undergoes ostensibly lead him to a comfortable conclusion at the end of
the novel, but the duration of his comfort is not ensured. In fact, the
constant vacillations that Henry experiences throughout the novel
somewhat undermine his apparent epiphany at the end of the piece because
he has had several similar instances in the course of the story in
which he has felt convinced that his actions and his emotional responses
were most accurate and appropriate, only to change his mind a moment
later with a change of circumstances. These continual changes,
highlighted by techniques such as limited narrative point of view,
emotionally charged description, and irony, help Crane to underscore the
instability of the world and the consequent uncertainty and fallibility
of human perception, traits that are fundamental to an impressionist
worldview. The people who populate this world must constantly confront
change as they attempt to understand reality, a challenge that raises
more doubt and apprehension than certainty.

KATE CHOPIN: THE AWAKENING

Crane’s
contemporary Kate Chopin (1851–1904) also uses an impressionistic
approach to explore changes that her protagonist, Edna Pontellier,
undergoes in The Awakening (1899). However, while Crane focuses on a
singular series of events, Chopin is more interested in examining a wide
spectrum of experiences and relationships in one woman’s life,
ultimately developing an enigmatic character who defies easy definitions
and interpretations. Although Edna begins to assert herself and make
her own decisions, there are always attendant complications that raise
questions about how truly liberated she might be; indeed, some see her
throughout the novel as a lost soul who lacks a sense of purpose or
understanding of her world. The impressionistic techniques that Chopin
employs (including limited third-person narration and an unclear
distinction between the narrative consciousness and that of the
protagonist), Edna’s marginalized and solitary nature, a connection
between sensory description and emotional response, and the close
juxtaposition of reality and dreams all contribute to the confusion in
interpreting Edna’s character, and, true to an impressionist aesthetic,
she remains an enigma to the end.

HENRY JAMES: THE AMBASSADORS

Unlike
Crane and Chopin, Henry James (1843–1916) did not embrace an
impressionist approach early in his career. In fact, after viewing the
Second Exhibition of impressionist artists in Paris (May 1876), he wrote
a decidedly negative response to the show. However, as his career
progressed his opinion gradually changed, and his novel The Ambassadors
(1903), infused with impressionism, becomes the vehicle for examining
the protagonist Lambert Strether’s ever-changing perception within an
ever-changing world. Rather than an enigmatically soul-earching
protagonist as Chopin’s is, however, James’s protagonist instead
discovers truths about himself while focusing his concern on others. As a
result the novel examines the process by which Strether reverses his
initial position about Chad Newsome, his life in Paris and the Woolett
business concerns, and consequently his own personal relationship with
Mrs. Newsome. The techniques that James uses emphasize the process of
seeing through gradual perception, constant questioning, and
reinterpretation of what is seen and understood. Using light and shadow,
colors and shapes, he underscores the visual subjectivity of
impressions, and by tying a character’s emotions to a particular scene,
he emphasizes the idea of subjective perception. His use of multiple
perspectives highlights the relativity of reality and enables him to
examine the protagonist not only in the process of changing his mind but
ultimately in the process of changing his heart.

In The
Ambassadors, Henry James uses the techniques of impressionism to
emphasize the process of seeing through gradual perception.
He had
just made out, in the now full picture, something and somebody else:
another impression had been superimposed. A young girl in a white dress
and a softly plumed white hat had suddenly come into view, and what was
next clear was that her course was toward them. What was clearer still
was that the handsome young man at her side was Chad Newsome, and what
was clearest of all was that she was therefore Mlle. de Vionnet, that
she was unmistakably pretty—bright, gentle, shy, happy, wonderful—and
that Chad now, with a consummate calculation of effect, was about to
present her to his old friend’s vision. What was clearest of all indeed
was something much more than this, something at the single stroke of
which—and wasn’t it simply juxtaposition?—all vagueness vanished. It was
the click of a spring—he saw the truth. He had by this time also met
Chad’s look; there was more of it in that; and the truth, accordingly,
so far as Bilham’s inquiry was concerned, had thrust in the answer. “Oh,
Chad!”—it was that rare youth he should have enjoyed being “like.” The
virtuous attachment would be all there before him; the virtuous
attachment would be in the very act of appeal for his blessing; Jeanne
de Vionnet, this charming creature, would be—exquisitely, intensely
now—the object of it.

Henry James, The Ambassadors (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930), pp. 151–152.

A BRIDGE TO MODERNISM

The
result of employing impressionism in a work of fiction varies from
writer to writer. However, there are some commonalities. By undermining
the notion of a single, authoritative reality, the subjectivity and
potential inaccuracies of perception are reinforced. In the absence of
an authoritative reality, the notion of truth also becomes questionable.
The sweep and fluctuation
of life is highlighted in a number of
ways, through episodically presented events and seemingly kinetic scenic
description as well as through characters whose ideas and attitudes are
changing constantly. The resulting works recognize that people and
their situations are constantly in flux and that holding fast to some
notion of reality is often nearly impossible. In contrast to some
works
of realism, impressionist works can be confusing, providing more
questions than answers even for careful readers—and this is a reflection
of the impressionist aesthetic, which sees the world and people as
confusing and ever-changing, the essence of which impressionist
literature seeks to capture in its pages.

These ideas, and the
methods by which they are rendered in fiction, constitute a significant
effort on the part of several American writers to push the notions of
reality and perception beyond those of realism, pointing toward concerns
that would come to characterize the twentieth century. The works of
Crane, Chopin, and James solidly establish the impressionist aesthetic
in American literature. Significant explorations by Harold Frederic,
Hamlin Garland, Willa Cather, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and
others extend its implications and move the essence of literary
experimentation forward. In concert, their efforts show that as a
literary movement impressionism forms a significant bridge between
realism and
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مُساهمةموضوع: رد: IMPRESSIONISM   2011-08-09, 19:44

Impressionist Practice and Purpose:
Impressionism
transformed the Western conception of landscape painting from timeless
and nostalgic idealizations of distant places to accurate and
brilliantly colored representations of existing, often familiar sites
seen at specific moments. Responding to calls for modernity and
naturalism—to reflect the environments of contemporary (French)
humanity—the Impressionists recorded their peers at both work and play.
Although today we take for granted the practice of painting on the spot
directly from observation, in the nineteenth century that commitment was
controversial. It was inseparable from debates over the role of modern
subjects in art (as opposed to classical ones), accompanied by
pejorative comparisons to photography, which was considered mechanical,
hence noncreative. Impressionist practices were also fraught with
political connotations, conditioned by the new prosperity and related
democratic aspirations. With their views of specifically contemporary
activities, whether in Parisian cafés, on beaches or in flowery fields,
or of the economic life on waterways, railways, and boulevards, the
Impressionists made their paintings sensitive and inclusive reflections
of modernity.

The name Impressionism was coined, following the
first Impressionist exhibition, by a satirical critic named Louis Leroy.
He made fun of Monet's Impression: Sunrise (1873, Musée Marmottan,
Paris) a sketch-like view of the harbor of the painter's native Le
Havre: "Impression : I was sure of it. I was telling myself, since I'm
so impressed, there must be an impression in it. And what freedom, what
ease in handling! A sketch for wallpaper is more finished than that
there seascape!" Another name, Intransigents, though eventually
abandoned, referred to a broader revolutionary significance. Following
the Paris Commune (1871) by just a few years, the Impressionists
elicited memories of radical politics because of their independent
movement and their free and broken brushwork, which challenged the
official art salons' monopoly on public exhibitions and defied the
traditional craft of academic art, which taught careful draftsmanship
and polished finishing.

Although there are wide variations in
Impressionist style, especially when comparing the relatively
traditional handling of Degas (A Carriage at the Races, 1869, Museum of
Fine Arts, Boston) to the fragmented brushstrokes of color that Monet
and Renoir (La Grenouillère, 1869, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm) developed
side by side on the banks of the river Seine, the artists shared a
commitment to the representation of modern life based on exacting
observation of their own world. For those like Monet, Pissarro (Red
Roofs, 1877, National Gallery, London), and Sisley (The Bridge at
Villeneuve-la-Garenne, 1872, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), who
painted primarily landscapes, working out of doors or en plein air, was
an important step away from the artifices of the studio. Their more
urban colleagues Manet (A Bar at the Folies Bergère, 1883, Courtauld
Institute, London) and Degas surveyed the dance halls and the Opéra, as
well as shops and boulevards for scenes of pleasure and material
consumption, while the female Impressionists, Morisot (The Cradle, 1872,
Musée d'Orsay, Paris) and Cassatt (Little Girl in a Blue Armchair,
1878, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), given the limitations
of their access to the primarily male public world, developed a flair
for domestic scenes.

For many, modernity was exemplified by
countryside locations and sporting activities (Caillebotte, Rowers on
the Yerre River, 1877, private collection). But Monet, Guillaumin
(Bridge over the Marne at Nogent, 1871, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New
York), Pissarro, and Cézanne (in his early years) included as a
counterpart to leisure scenes evidence of the productivity,
infrastructure, and technologies that underlay French progress in the
new industrial age. Indeed, the poet Charles Baudelaire, while lamenting
the loss of taste occasioned by the rise of the bourgeoisie, urged
modern artists to somehow capture the essence of their world, which for
him was one of constant change, including the flow of crowded commercial
avenues and socializing at sidewalk cafés. In addition, the productive
processes and speed associated with factories and train travel were as
much a part of the landscape of modern vision as were ladies on beaches
and promenades among poppy fields. The liberal art critic Jules
Castagnary actually called for a modern landscape that would reflect
contemporary progress built on democratic change.

Neo-Impressionism and Beyond:
Implicit
in the word impression are two ostensibly opposed concepts: that of the
rapid glance or instinctive judgment and that of the exact imprint, as
in a photographic impression. Hence Impressionism could appear to some,
such as Leroy, a shoddy and unskilled practice, whereas to others the
intuition that light is the basis of vision, and color its medium in
art, was scientifically true. In addition, Impressionism's commitment to
direct observation and its evocation of progressive change are
generally associated with the spirit of positivism, a contemporary
philosophy developed by Auguste Comte and applied to art by his disciple
and specialist in the psychology of perception, Hippolyte Taine.
Comte's quasireligion of progress based on scientific attitudes was
followed by Taine's deterministic theories on the history of art. Their
ideas might be stated as the relationship between art and its immediate
physical and social environment, expressed through the empirical
perceptions of the talented individual. Their follower, the novelist
Émile Zola, a childhood friend of Cézanne, through whom he met the
Impressionists, wrote famously that "art is no more nor less than a
corner of nature seen through a temperament."

The association
between these ideas and Impressionism can be gauged by the
neo-Impressionist critique of their achievement. Certain artists of the
next generation, especially Georges Seurat (Sunday Afternoon on the
Island of La Grande Jatte, 1886, Art Institute of Chicago), according to
the critic Félix Féneon, sought to make Impressionism more socially
responsible and democratic by developing a collective technique
accessible to all. Seurat's dot-dash or pointillist method reduced the
labor of painting to a repeatable formula, while at the same time
creating the sensation of duration over time rather than a spontaneously
grasped instant. On both grounds, neo-Impressionism claimed greater
objectivity, thus challenging the individualist basis of Impressionist
naturalism in favor of a shared and more permanent, hence more
classical, vision. Through Seurat's eyes, then, Impressionism celebrated
merely momentary, superficial pleasures and casual, intuitive craft
rather than the mental and physical concentration derived from rational
calculation and rigorous effort. This moralizing argument fit a
political critique of bourgeois society that came to be associated with
avant-garde painting of both the Right and the Left after Impressionism.

By
contrast, while adhering always to the Impressionist model of painting
directly from the motif with dabs of color, Paul Cézanne also managed to
transcend the Impressionist sense of moment to produce what he called
"a more lasting art, like that of the museums" (Montagne
Sainte-Victoire, c. 1882, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). In ways
more fruitful than Seurat, his increasing abstraction led toward future
styles of the twentieth century, especially Cubism.

In the other
arts, however, Impressionism's impact was limited. The sensitive,
mobile surfaces of Auguste Rodin's bronze sculptures caught the light in
ways associated with Impressionism. Claude Debussy's music came to be
called Impressionist because it challenged past styles and evoked
certain motifs in nature associated with Impressionist painting. In the
literature of Henry James, the term refers to the literal naturalism of
settings described in so much detail that it both overwhelms and yet
concentrates our anticipation of the narrative.

In painting,
almost every country had its Impressionist school; the British and the
American, with their direct ties to Monet's circle, were the strongest.
In later art, the abstract expressionism of artists like Jackson Pollock
has been traced to Claude Monet's late Water Lilies, and the
contemporary painter Joan Mitchell, who spent much time near Monet's
former residence in Giverny, has been called an "abstract
Impressionist." However, perhaps the greatest legacy of Impressionism is
that it is the most popular style for so many amateur art colonies and
Sunday painters, who celebrate both nature and leisure while working
hard to develop their personal techniques.

After all the memoirs,
biographies, and correspondence written by the painters and their
contemporaries, Impressionism studies began in earnest with John Rewald,
who used such documents to trace the Impressionist painters almost day
by day and site by site. Interpretations of their art, however, remained
within the legend of revolutionary aesthetic innovation and celebration
of its seminal step toward modernist departures from literal
representation.

The first writer to take seriously the social
dimension to Impressionism's significance was Meyer Schapiro in his
lectures at Columbia University and in a few short articles. He was
followed by Robert L. Herbert, whose disciples in particular have
stressed the relationship between the artists and the history and
significance of places they inhabited. At the same time, the social art
historian T. J. Clark has focused on Impressionist paintings as
documents of the changing physical environment and its social
implications. Feminist scholars led by Linda Nochlin have focused on the
female Impressionists as well as on the role of women as subjects of
the male Impressionist gaze. Finally, a number of younger scholars have
explored the relationship between Impressionism and politi
cs.
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مُساهمةموضوع: رد: IMPRESSIONISM   2011-08-14, 20:03

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