Impressionist Group Splits
9. The Group Splits Up
Impressionists Go Their Separate Ways
IMPRESSIONISM & PORTRAITS
MEANING OF ART
WORLD'S TOP PAINTERS
The Impressionist painters themselves are far from Paris, isolated and settled more permanently to paint and develop their work. Sisley is at Saint-Mammes, near Moret and the Loing Canal. Monet is at Givemy near Vemon, in the Eure, with the widow of Hoschede, who is to become his second wife (Camille died in 1878, worn out by privation and difficulty). Pissarro has settled at Eragny, in the heart of the Vexin. Cezanne most often lives at Aix where his family life finally became stable, excepting the death of his father, by his marriage to Hortense Fiquet. He works in the solitude of his property Jas de Bouffan. Only Renoir pursues a different sort of life, spending ten years as a sort of mental and physical vagabond before finally choosing the Mediterranean coast as the setting and model for the Eden which blossoms out of his creation.
But even so it must not be thought that
the painters have completely withdrawn into themselves. Some bitter ideas
in the minds of some of them cannot make them forget that their solidarity
remains deep, and that friendship continues to keep them together to a
varying extent. They visit one another in their travels and sometimes
spend long periods at each other's homes. Renoir goes a number of times
to Cezanne's place (in 1882, 1883, 1888 and 1889), once accompanied by
Monet, and Cezanne in turn visits Renoir at La Roche-Guyon and Monet at
Giverny. Later strong ties link their children, but they are already like
part of the same family. They exchange ideas and experiences, and so much
the better if these do not agree. They attach the greatest importance
to opinions formulated on their own works.
The Fate of the Impressionists
Pissarro's work, still very abundant, also marks time a little. Despite age and infirmity (an eye disease), Pissarro maintains his apostolic fervour and extraordinary appetite for action right to the end. He moves about incessantly in search of new themes, finally returning to those that are familiar to him. He is to be found in London, in Holland, in Normandy; but the familiar port of Rouen with its cargoes on the Seine, his views of Paris, the quais, the carousel, and the perspectives from his window in the Hotel du Louvre provide the best of his inspiration. This production, perhaps of somewhat even execution, shows a great mastery, an extraordinary knowledge of harmony and accord. And who could not be moved by Pissarro fighting blindness and old age with lighter and more luminous painting?
Huysmans, in 1889, noted that Cezanne,
then almost forgotten, had contributed more than the others to the Impressionist
movement. Because of the importance that Cubism
accorded to the constructive period of the painter, this statement has
long appeared debatable and, we believe, wrong. Cezanne leaves Impressionism
with the intention of making it "something solid and durable like
the art of the museums", a wish that, after all, is that of his companions.
But he has never hidden the fact that his inspiration comes to him from
his "little sensation" and he has never ceased to wonder about
the subject in the open air. It is even in the protracted spells of painting
outdoors, exposed to sun and rain, that he has contracted the illness
from which he dies. He does not neglect the fluctuations of the atmosphere
any more than Monet. But he goes voluntarily into another light, that
of the Midi, which is less fluid and less variable. Thus it is quite normal
that he, instead of being affected by the transience of time and by barely
perceptible changes, should settle on a light which best qualifies the
essential shape of the object and, in his own words, "modulates"
it. Indeed in order better to express form by colours, he treats the surface
in rhythms and geometrical figures, the famous "cylinders, cones
and spheres"; however, these geometric forms have no value in themselves
and are always superimposed with an absolute fidelity to the aspects of
reality. Thus they do not repudiate the concepts of Impressionism but
interpret it with its Cartesian, reasoned and lucid spirit (at a time
when others are trying to reduce it to a scientific formula). He wants
to show nature as it is, that is, as one sees it, stripped by the light
of all obsession of the imagination and of all drama. The withdrawn manner
in which he lives without any diversions allows him to perfect, day after
day, an absolutely personal technique which is lightened to the extreme.
He succeeds in qualifying the most dense construction and taking his drawing
right into the edges of his canvas. In this respect his use of watercolours
and diluted colours allows him to achieve the greatest economy of resources.
All his work is bathed in a bluish atmosphere, producing deeply echeloned
spaces. His world broadens out. This harsh land of Provence, this countryside
which undergoes little alteration, whose masses and contours melt into
a sky that is always blue, allows him to attain absolute truth. His synthesis
comes not from abstract elements but from the concrete and most obvious.
Thus he realises, although he always doubts it, his dream of "Poussin
taken from nature".
Degas, who has suffered with failing eyesight
for some years, is obliged to use richer colours. His disability causes
a broadening and blurring of his forms. Ironically, this causes his late
works to come closer to mainstream Impressionism than ever before. He
turns more to the tactile practice of sculpture.
His strange life, for most of which he was sufficiently well-off never
to have to sell his paintings, but which contained no trace of romance,
ends in virtual blindness. When he dies he leaves over 2,000 oils and
150 sculptures. For more information, see: Best
NEXT: (10) Claude Monet and the Legacy of Impressionism.
To update this Mini-Review of Impressionist Art Group Splits, click Here.