Camille Mauclair

by Camille Mauclair

The illustrations contained in this volume have been taken from different epochs of the Impressionist movement. They will give but a feeble idea of the extreme abundance of its production.

It will be beyond the scope of this volume to give a complete history of French Impressionism, and to include all the attractive details to which it might lead, as regards the movement itself and the very curious epoch during which its evolution has taken place. The proportions of this book confine its aim to the clearest possible summing up for the British reader of the ideas, the personalities and the works of a considerable group of artists who, for various reasons, have remained but little known and who have only too frequently been gravely misjudged.

It should be stated from the outset that there is nothing dogmatic about this explanation of the Impressionist theories, and that it is not the result of a preconceived plan. In art a system is not improvised. A theory is slowly evolved, nearly always unknown to the author, from the discoveries of his sincere instinct, and this theory can only be formulated after years by criticism facing the works. Monet and Manet have worked for a long time without ever thinking that theories would be built upon their paintings.

As I have said, Edouard Manet has not been entirely the originator of the Impressionist technique. It is the work of Claude Monet which presents the most complete example of it, and which also came first as regards date. But it is very difficult to determine such cases of priority, and it is, after all, rather useless. A technique cannot be invented in a day.

I have said how vain it is to class artistic temperaments under a title imposed upon them generally by circumstances and dates, rather than by their own free will. The study of Degas will furnish additional proof for it. Classed with the Impressionists, this master participates in their ideas in the sphere of composition, rather than in that of colour. He belongs to them through his modernity and comprehension of character. Only when we come to his quite recent landscapes (1896), can we link him to Monet and Renoir as colourist, and he has been more their friend than their colleague.

With Claude Monet we enter upon Impressionism in its most significant technical expression, and touch upon the principal points referred to in the second chapter of this book.

The work of Auguste Renoir extends without interruption over a period of forty years. It appears to sum up the ideas and methods of Impressionist art so completely that, should it alone be saved from a general destruction, it would suffice to bear witness to this entire art movement. It has unfolded itself from 1865 to our days with a happy magnificence, and it allows us to distinguish several periods, in the technique at least, since the variety of its subjects is infinite. Like Manet, and like all truly great and powerful painters, M.

Manet, Degas, Monet and Renoir will present themselves as a glorious quartet of masters, in the history of painting. We must now speak of some personalities who have grown up by their side and who, without being great, offer nevertheless a rich and beautiful series of works.

Not the least important result of Impressionism has been the veritable revolution effected by it in the art of illustration. It was only natural that its principles should have led to it.

The beginnings of the movement designated under the name of Neo-Impressionism can be traced back to about 1880. The movement is a direct offshoot of the first Impressionism, originated by a group of young painters who admired it and thought of pushing further still its chromatic principles. The flourishing of Impressionism coincided, as a matter of fact, with certain scientific labours concerning optics. Helmholtz had just published his works on the perception of colours and sounds by means of waves.

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