5. The Other Impressionists:
Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas, Cezanne

(1) Origins and Influences (2) Early History (3) Impressionist Edouard Manet (4) Impressionist Claude Monet
(5) Impressionists Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas, Cezanne (6) Monet & Pissarro in London
(7) Impressionist Painting Developments (8) Impressionist Exhibitions (9) Group Splits (10) Legacy

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The Swing (La Balancoire), (1876)
By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Other Impressionists:
Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas, Cezanne


The Other Impressionists
Impressionist Meetings in the Cafe Guerbois
Paintings by Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas and Cezanne

NOTE: For analysis of works by Impressionist painters,
please see: Analysis of Modern Paintings (1800-2000).

Portraits at the Bourse (1878)
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

By Edgar Degas.

See: Impressionist Portraits.

For a review of outdoor scenic
works, see Landscape Painting,
and the French Barbizon School.
For a review of Impressionism
and plein-air art, see:
Impressionist Landscapes.
Plein-Air Painting.

For a list of great works
see: Greatest Modern Paintings.

The best collection of Impressionist
and Post-Impressionist paintings
hangs in the Musee d'Orsay Paris.

The Other Impressionists

Are the other Impressionists better off than Monet?

Renoir, whose training has been slower and who is more shy, but pursues his own objective relentlessly, is gradually freed from the conventions of the studio and from the smooth and glossy technique which he undoubtedly acquired while painting on porcelain. Coaxed to Fontainebleau by his friends he is still somewhat reluctant to work in the open air and, to apply the new techniques he has evolved, always seems to need to go back to the density and volume of the human figure.

The first of his works which may be regarded as having "crossed the line" is the portrait "Lisa with Umbrella," painted in the forest of Fontainebleau in 1867, and successfully admitted to the Salon of 1868. The face, full of charm, melts into the shade of the forest undergrowth but the body, in a white dress, is picked up by the sunlight and blossoms out to occupy the whole centre of the composition, producing a nice arrangement of light reflections which emphasise the shape. Working near Monet in 1868 and 1869, he composes a number of pure landscapes: La Grenouillere, skating scenes in the Bois de Boulogne, snow effects, in which he subscribes to his companion's line while still main-taining unity of colour. He practises an enveloping approach to the subject with very fine brushwork, which lightens the most imposing masses and wraps shapes in a nimbus of poetry and sentiment. This allows him to maintain precision in details and show his knowledge of the old masters (in the sense of purity, not naivety, like the Italian Franciscan painters) in a complete and even impassioned view. Even during this period he increases the number of portraits of his friends, particularly of the Sisley household, of which the two large full-length figures are matched in a lively and charming pose. For more, see: Best Impressionist Paintings.

For details of the best
modern painters, see:
Famous Painters.

For a list of the Top 10 painters/
sculptors: Best Artists of All Time.


Alfred Sisley, who still enjoys a comfortable life and whose painting develops slowly and without incident, on the contrary is already confirmed exclusively as a landscapist. His impressions are expressed in very fine chromatic variations, but in a minor fashion. (Note: for a description of the Impressionist style, see: Characteristics of Impressionist Painting 1870-1910.)

Bazille also remains withdrawn. He fervently embraces Monet's plein-airism and in this spirit produces the great "Family Reunion" in 1867, which involves a whole series of studies for some of the eleven persons grouped in the composition. But he is probably more faithful to the letter than to the spirit of the new ideas, concerned less with seizing likenesses than with psychological verisimilitude. His people are immobile, as if caught in meditation, offering a silent resistance to attempts to bring them together. Although they are represented in the open air, under arches of foliage, they do not seem to be influenced either by the light or by what adjoins them. It is true, however, that these paintings were painted in the white light of the Midi, which shines brightly and has none of the nuances of light in the Channel area or around Paris. An excellent man of exemplary kindness and scrupulously frank, "having all the noble qualities of youth, faith, loyalty and refinement" (Emile Zola), Bazille plays a very considerable role in the development of Impressionism by the confidence he places in his friends and the support he gives them. But he remains still short of revelation and it is not possible to say how far he might have taken part in the festival of Impressionism if he had escaped this unfortunate fate.

In the landscape art of Impressionism, only Pissarro plays a role almost equal to Monet. Older than the latter and having already had longer experience, his evolution has been slower and more steady. He has followed the example of Corot, obviously implying shades and softness quite different from the flashes of foreshortening and the impassioned U-turns of Monet. He gradually sheds this influence and moves not only his work but his life into the heart of nature.

From 1859, he lives in the countryside around Paris, successively at Montmorency, La Varenne-Saint-Hilaire from 1863, the Hermitage at Pontoise from 1867 and Louveciennes from 1868. He works alone, grappling with the land and taking part in life in the fields, gaining respect for the bearing of the workers, the passing of farm carts, and using great stretches of green and brown handled with small fragments and, from 1868 to 1870, instinctively practising a sort of fragmentation of touch undoubtedly stemming from an innate Divisionism, like seeking the different densities of matter. Gradually he gets a little more light into each stroke of the brush, clarifying his slightly sombre compositions. He is not afraid of producing a limited number of paintings on the same theme (it is easier to sell small canvases which he furnishes regularly at reasonable prices to his dealer, the elder Martin). These are very fruitful years for him. He paints landscapes near his house, the main road near where he lives, in summer as well as winter, and the variations which the seasons bring. Unhappily we know only a very small number of his works. Pissarro was caught by the Prussian advance in 1870 at Louveciennes and had to flee, leaving behind hundreds of canvases (including fifty works by Monet which the latter had asked him to mind). These canvases were thrown into the courtyard to cover the mud and trodden down by German soldiers who had set up the house as a butchery for the troops.

The contribution of Berthe Morisot during this period must not be neglected. Because she benefited from an exceptional family and financial situation, and because she was a woman, she has been too often regarded as an amateur while in fact she produced, admittedly under easier conditions, works which already have a definite character and are valuable for their improvisation, which she was always to maintain. She takes impressions as they strike her, with a frankness and simplicity and feminine spontaneity which on many occasions show her as an innovator. It is on seeing her painting in the Salon of 1867, for which she had painted a View of Paris from the Trocadero Heights (the aerial photographs by Nadar were taken in 1865), that Manet gets the idea of painting his "View of the Universal Exhibition," which now reposes in the Oslo Museum, in which he shows on different levels an arrangement of terraces and pavilions dotted with figures. A year later she becomes his pupil and favourite model.

Edgar Degas, having given up pretensions to historical painting, has become a friend of Manet about 1865. It is to Manet that he feels closest, even if his conception of painting is fundamentally different. The two men have some common traits, even if they sometimes clash fiercely with each other. When Degas paints a portrait of Manet and his wife playing the piano, Manet masks off the right-hand part which he does not like. Furious, Degas takes back his work and notices that Manet uses the same pose for a portrait of his wife. See also Degas' early academic masterpiece The Bellelli Family (1858-67). Compare this with his later Impressionist works like Portraits at the Bourse (1879). Degas has no liking for open-air life and practises it only in short periods: for example, when he is persuaded to go to Boulogne-sur-Mer with Manet and drive through the countryside. For both of them it is quite a new experience and Degas paints a series of watercolours and pastels of beach scenes and landscapes in which he is less interested with detail than with finding a sort of impersonal nature, misty, almost mythical. Moreover, nothing is less spontaneous and free than when he works after long reflection and reasoning.

Like Manet he is preoccupied with translating the life of society, but he goes about it in a much more systematic and methodical fashion. He gets the notion of setting up a library of contemporary subjects and sets himself an ambitious program to draw on a certain number of themes: musicians and their instruments; the bakery with the shapes of bread and cakes; gestures involved in practising a trade, the hands of hair-dressers in action, the movement of the legs of dancers (which he often paints isolated from the rest of the body), the weariness of laundresses. See: Women Ironing (1884). However, certain subjects were linked with the preoccupations of the future Impressionists. Degas set himself to study, for example, the various types of smoke: from cigarettes, chimneys, locomotives and ships. He thought the reflection of globes in cafe mirrors in the evening would provide material for interesting variations and in fact later he produced it in his impressions of the music hall or the cafe concert.

We cannot fail to be struck by the relationship which exists between his intentions and the possibilities only recently offered by the perfection of the instantaneous photograph. We also know of the interest Degas has always had in photography, with which he is very familiar. In the case of a great number of his paintings, particularly his portraits, photographic proofs have been found of his model in which, sometimes after several experiments, he produces the expression which he is later to reproduce exactly in his painting. Degas is also known to have been one of the first, on the advice of Bracquemond, to collect the Japanese Ukiyo-e wood-block prints of the great Hokusai (1760-1849), Hiroshige (1797-1858), Outamaro and Hayashi. They interested him particularly because of their eccentric composition and their foreshortening. Photography, like the Japanese engravings, allows him to study views from above and all ways of making decor arrangements more eloquent and more useful.

He is also the first, and is always proud of it where Manet is concerned, to study horses. He got the taste for it in 1862 when he visited friends named Valpincon who lived at Menil-Hubert, near the Haras du Pin stud farm in the Orne department. He studies details of the animal's body, in repose and moving. The same year he composes his first canvas on the subject: "Gentleman's Race, Before the Start." It is difficult to say what this was like at the beginning because he took it up again and completed it in 1880, and in the definitive version there are traces of very much later experience.

This painting is obviously why Manet painted "The Races at Longchamps" in 1864. But the conceptions of the two painters are very different. Degas arranges very cleverly, no doubt in the studio, silhouettes that are very individual and which he has had to establish separately in producing harmony of horse and rider. Manet's idea is, above all, to give an impression of the whole, on one side the mass of galloping horses which surges in front and on the other the mingled figures of the crowd stretched along the course. It is even one of his works where figures are better integrated in the landscape, sharing the bluish or greenish tones which surround them and becoming part of a sort of general luminosity. See also: Race Horses in front of the Stands (1868).

Degas's most important discovery is undoubtedly that of stage business. About 1868 or 1869, taken to the Opera by his friend Desire Dihau, bassoon player in the orchestra, he gets the idea of presenting the musicians in their pit, where they are generally half-hidden. To keep them in their proper place and still have enough light he puts them under the footlights, violently lighting the legs and bodies of the dancers. From this first work onwards he shows a great ingenuity in arranging his decor and, although the musicians in the foreground may still be treated like a series of portraits (he introduces several of his friends), the fairyland impression of the stage in the background is a fore-runner of later pastels in which the artist depicts variations of the dance. See also his extended series of paintings of women at their toilette, such as: Woman Combing Her Hair (1887-90).

At this time Cezanne, who has asserted his strong personality among his friends, appears to be quite apart in his work. Having finally overcome family resistance he has left the bank and devoted himself entirely to painting, dividing his time between Aix-en-Provence and Paris. His heavy and powerful work still bears the mark of personal problems. Provincial, self-taught, and ingenuous poet for his time, a dutiful son, practising the Roman Catholic religion as a defence against his own violent temperament, Cezanne appears to be full of complexes of which moreover he does nothing to rid himself. Tall, lean, with a black beard and a loud voice, he expresses his opinions vehemently, even grossly, and effects a bohemian attitude which stands out against the behaviour of his comrades. At each Salon he deliberately submits paintings he believes most likely to shock the jury; if he is surprised later at their systematic rejection, he never dreams of making the slightest concession. For him painting is the means of freeing himself from the grip of his imagination. A profound admirer of Delacroix, Honore Daumier and the Venetians, he conceives great Romantic compositions and produces them in a clumsy and over-elaborate style. He introduces his sentimental and erotic obsessions, his dreams of odalisks and slaves which he handles not with love and fervour but in derision of the impossible. But behind this apparent coarseness he follows a systematic reasoning to elaborate a system of painting and organising a canvas. He wants to bring out the solidity and permanence of things and he regards feeling as only a means of achieving a lasting excess of emotion. If he appears to be far behind the evolution of his friends, he still never ceases to make progress in his idea; he is the one who wants to go farthest and is to succeed in this.


In the first stage, he devotes himself to fixing his impressions on detailed and almost elementary subjects. He boldly places his still-life on white cloths which accentuate the shapes, and the brilliance of colours is heightened by the use of black patches, which he borrows from Manet. His first portraits, laid on in a thick paste, with figures sometimes as large as life, stick strictly to the ideological aim that he is pursuing. His father reading a novel stands out in front of the whitish covering of his armchair. His friends Zola and Alexis are curiously placed on a seat and cushions like oriental sages, divested of all useless accessories or decor. (One cannot help thinking on the other hand of Manet's portrait of Zola, almost contemporary, in which the face counts for little while the composition includes everything calculated to represent the man, his tastes and what interests him.) In this light Cezanne's work then appears singularly bold and innovationist, which is the main thing about it.

Cezanne is also the connecting link between the future Impressionist painters and the man who is to become their first ideological defender, Zola. It is in innumerable discussions with Cezanne that Zola understands the importance of Manet and realises the part he could play on his side. In fact in 1866, the Salon jury, not wishing to see a repetition of the Olympia scandal, reject all Manet's entries, including the "Fifer," at one swoop. Zola, who had agreed to write reviews of the Salon for the new daily "L'Evenement," commenced his articles with two attacks on the jury. In his third article he defines his own conception of a work of art as being a combination of two elements, one fixed and real, nature, and the other individual and subjective, the temperament of the artist. He warns courageously against a conception too skimpy in realism which, he says, is nothing unless it subordinates realism to temperament. Having laid down these principles and even before beginning to review the works exhibited, he devotes the whole of his fourth article to Manet who in fact has been excluded from the exhibition. He puts on paper his admiration not only for the "Fifer" but for earlier paintings: "Le Diner sur L'Herbe" (as it was first titled) and "Olympia," and concludes by asserting that Manet's place, like that of Courbet, is in the Louvre. Protests by readers and subscribers are so strong that the editor decides to reduce the number of articles by Zola and replace them with those of a more conformist critic. Zola does not even write the three remaining articles commissioned from him and, after a brief eulogy of Camille Corot (1797-1875), Charles Daubigny (1817-78) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), ends his contribution. But he publishes the whole of his articles in a booklet which he dedicates to Paul Cezanne with whom he declares he will pursue alone the talks they have had over ten years of life, often together, on the great problems of artistic creation.

A year later, before the opening of the Universal Exhibition in which Manet, like Courbet, has decided to participate by renting a private stall in which he can show his works quite freely, Zola publishes a long study of Manet and his works in which he notes very pertinently the new contribution the artist has made to art. As far as he is concerned Manet's forte lies in painting in solid masses, of having discovered the tache (smudge), of always starting off on a clearer note than exists in nature. He sees very clearly that in the first and somewhat hard impression Manet's painting only shows delicacy, that his colours are never piled up, nor are his effects forced, that his values are true, his pallors strong and his simplicity quite up to Museum standard. He comments impartially on his works, seeing in "Olympia" the flesh and blood of the painter and emphasising the importance of his new seascapes.

Today there is nothing much to change in these lines although they were written while Manet was only halfway through his life's work. Simply remember this definition by the painter Severini: "Here is the new process of the tache, the exclusive search for tone and the new harmony of violet shades. One might say that procedure counts little in art, that from Monet's has come all modern painting."

Impressionist Meetings in the Cafe Guerbois

Manet's pavilion in the exhibition of 1867 was not the success he had hoped for, while Courbet's, with some 110 works, drew much more attention from the public as Manet's revived old quarrels. In Manet's showing, however, is the essence of his work in fifty paintings, presented in the most dignified and modest way with the painter simply inviting the public to view "some sincere works". This exhibition allows all the younger painters to measure the importance and the extent of Manet's work. Only he was able to present so new and so significant a collection of works. Even the idea of an exhibition was to be retained by his comrades. Monet and his friends thought of taking a pavilion after the exhibition closed to show, in their turn, works which could be presented in a systematic fashion without the disadvantage of a neighbouring show. Even if they were unable to find the money to stage the exhibition, it still remained their aim. Zola's intervention on the side of Manet also was to have lasting effects and give a theoretical adhesion to the meetings of the young artists and writers.

Manet was in the habit, like other men about town of the period, of frequenting a special cafe in the evening: first it was the Cafe de Bade at 26 Boulevard des Italiens. But this cafe has many customers, of various types. Then he shows a more marked preference for a smaller cafe at 11 rue des Batignolles (now the Avenue de Clichy), the Cafe Guerbois. There he and his artist and writer friends get into the habit of meeting. They are to be found there every evening, according to individual liking, but every Thursday they were all there. Manet was the elder, the leader, but while brimming over with vivacity, always keeping to politeness and exquisite refinement in discussion. Among those who were in the habit of meeting there were: writers and critics like Zola, Duranty, Astruc, Duret, Burty, and Cladel; artists like Fantin-Latour, Guillemet, Bracquemond, Degas, then Bazille, Cezanne, Sisley, Monet, Pissarro and Desboutin; and just friends such as Commandant Lejosne, the musician Maitre and the photographer Nadar.

At these brilliant meetings where wit flowed, sometimes sharp, Manet and his writer friends, as well as Degas - redoubtable in discussion despite his insistent monotone - at first had the lion's share of the discussion. But gradually problems purely of pictorial interest, mainly of technique, seem to take over and are debated with much seriousness. Monet, who listened more than talked, perhaps shy from his upbringing, expounded his many experiences. Cezanne interrupted with a vehemence sometimes not quite understandable, to emphasise what he considered essential. Renoir, whose mind was not theoretical, expressed his own personal non-conformist ideas with humour and in a natural manner. Pissarro, who sometimes came up from Louveciennes, impressed everyone with the generosity of his ideas and the indomitable good nature of his convictions. From their discussions and differences of opinion the group emerged more united and more friendly and began to assume a well-defined shape. The meetings at the Cafe Guerbois assumed importance from 1867 onwards and must essentially date from 1868 and 1869. If they did not survive the war it was because they had already achieved their object: to permit the artists to know one another better and to define their positions more clearly. At this stage discussion among the artists had to give way to work. Moreover, it is symptomatic that Fantin-Latour should have preferred to place the group and his friends in a setting not in the cafe but in an ideal imaginary studio. In this canvas, "A Studio in Batignolles," painted in 1869 and exhibited in 1870, Manet is sitting painting, surrounded by Renoir, Bazille, Monet, Astruc, Zola and Maitre, and also the German painter Scholderer. In fact there were many such meetings, not at Manet's place but at Bazille's studio. Bazille had become installed near the Cafe Guerbois and left a small painting from 1870, free as a sketch, showing his friends and himself chatting and working. In this work Manet and Monet are seen discussing the canvas which Bazille is painting while Maitre plays the piano and Zola talks with Sisley. It was Manet who painted the figure of Bazille.

See the art dealer and Impressionist champion Paul Durand-Ruel.

Paintings by Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Degas and Cezanne


Chemin de la Machine, Louveciennes (1873) by Alfred Sisley.
Musee d'Orsay.

The House of the Hanged Man (1873) by Paul Cezanne.
Musee d'Orsay.

Misty Morning (1874) by Alfred Sisley.
Musee d'Orsay.

Vegetable Garden with Trees in Blossom, Spring, Pontoise (1877) Pissarro.
Musee d'Orsay.

Path Leading Through Tall Grass (1877) by Renoir.
Musee d'Orsay.

The Red Roofs (1877) by Pissarro.
Musee d'Orsay.

Snow at Louveciennes (1878) by Alfred Sisley.
Musee d'Orsay.

The Bridge at Maincy (1879) by Paul Cezanne.
Musee d'Orsay.

Mont Sainte-Victoire Paintings (1882-1906) by Paul Cezanne.
Various art museums.


Canal St Martin (1870) by Alfred Sisley.
Musee d'Orsay.

Boulevard Montmartre paintings (1897-8) by Pissarro.
Various art museums.


The Ballet Class (1871-4) by Degas.
Musee d'Orsay.

Absinthe (1876) by Degas.
Musee d'Orsay.

Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876) by Renoir.
Musee d'Orsay.

Luncheon Of the Boating Party (1880-1) by Renoir.
Phillips Collection, Washington DC.

The Boy in the Red Waistcoat (1889-90)
E.G. Buhrle Collection; MOMA; Barnes Foundation; NGA Washington DC.

Man Smoking a Pipe (1890-2)
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Woman with a Coffee Pot (1890-5)
Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

The Card Players (1892-6)
Musee d'Orsay, Courtauld Gallery and others.

Lady in Blue (c.1900)
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Young Italian Woman Leaning on her Elbow (1900) by Paul Cezanne.
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

NEXT: (6) Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro Travel to London.

We gratefully acknowledge the use of an excerpt from Impressionism, by Jacques Lassaigne (1966).


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