The French Impressionists (1860-1900)

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.

Banished from the salons, exhibited in private galleries and sold direct to art lovers, the Impressionist works have been but little seen. The series left by Caillebotte to the Luxembourg Gallery is very badly shown and is composed of interesting works which, however, date back to the early period, and are very inferior to the beautiful productions which followed later. Renoir is best represented. The private galleries in Paris, where the best Impressionist works are to be found, are those of MM. Durand-Ruel, Rouart, de Bellis, de Camondo, and Manzi, to which must be added the one sold by MM. Théodore Duret and Faure, and the one of Mme. Ernest Rouart, daughter of Mme. Morisot, the sister-in-law of Manet. The public galleries of M. Durand-Ruel's show-rooms are the place where it is easiest to find numerous Impressionist pictures.

In spite of the firm opposition of the official juries, a place of honour was reserved at the Exposition of 1889 for Manet, and at that of 1900 a fine collection of Impressionists occupied two rooms and caused a considerable stir.

Amongst the critics who have most faithfully assisted this group of artists, I must mention, besides the early friends previously referred to, Castagnary, Burty, Edouard de Goncourt, Roger Marx, Geffroy, Arsène Alexandre, Octave Mirbeau, L. de Fourcaud, Clemenceau, Mallarmé, Huysmans, Jules Laforgue, and nearly all the critics of the Symbolist reviews. A book on "Impressionist Art" by M. Georges Lecomte has been published by the firm of Durand-Ruel as an edition-de-luxe. But the bibliography of this art consists as yet almost exclusively of articles in journals and reviews and of some isolated biographical pamphlets. Manet is, amongst many, the one who has excited most criticism of all kinds; the articles, caricatures and pamphlets relating to his work would form a considerable collection. It should be added that, with the exception of Manet two years before his death, and Renoir last year at the age of sixty-eight, no Impressionist has been decorated by the French government. In England such a distinction has even less importance in itself than elsewhere. But if I insist upon it, it is only to draw attention to the fact that, through the sheer force of their talent, men like Degas, Monet and Pissarro have achieved great fame and fortune, without gaining access to the Salons, without official encouragement, decoration, subvention or purchases for the national museums. This is a very significant instance and serves well to complete the physiognomy of this group of independents.