French Impressionism


Paris during the late 1800s was a city of extraordinary creativity. New movements in literature, music, and the visual arts thrived among the city’s bohemians. One of the major developments to emerge from Paris’s modern spirit was the art movement called “impressionism”. Impressionism refers to pieces made between 1867 and 1886 by a certain set of artists who used similar techniques and subjects. “The impressionist style of painting is characterized chiefly by concentration on the general impression produced by a scene or object and the use of unmixed primary colors and small strokes to simulate actual reflected light” (Herbert). Some of the most influential and founding artists of this movement are Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Together these artists used their painting, sketching, and sculpting to capture quick moments of French life. The Impressionist movement encapsulated French society and industry in during the late 19th century.

Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? This research guide is dedicated to try to come up with some sort of answer for the unanswerable question through the exploration of a truly monumental art movement that marked the beginning of modern art. Below, four categories divide the research guide sections. The general overview gives broader sources that will give everything from quick definitions to academic articles to magazine bulletins, and beyond. It is wise to use these sites for topic overview, but also to search a more specific sub-topic later into research. Next, there is a specific artist section. The three most distinguished artists each have several sources that include biography, critical analysis, and prints. There is a primary sources section with notes, sketches, and interviews done with the actual artists, and lastly, a small interactive sources section with video and digital media. Happy researching!


General Overview:

Oxford Art Online

This source is excellent for general overviews and very detailed biographies. It is comprised of the Oxford Companion to Western Art, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms, and Grove Art online. This is particularly easy to understand without knowing a large amount of prior art history knowledge. This source is really four sources in one, all conveniently located within one search bar!

ArtLex: Visual Arts Dictionary

This is not only a dictionary for common art terms that occur while researching Impressionism, but gives a really simple and concise overview of the movement. It  includes visual characteristics and links to concise biographies of painters.

Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society

This book is very lengthy but contains good overview information as well as an abundance of color reprints of paintings and an extensive bibliography for further reading.

Herbert, Robert L.. Impressionism: art, leisure, and Parisian society. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Specific Artists:

This section is a collection of sources that contain biographical information, analytical, and critical information about the most influential and primary artists during the French Impressionism movement. These are sorted by artist category. Links could possibly be linked to similar websites but sorted for convenience.

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Claude Monet (PRINT)

This book contains mostly extremely high quality prints of his complete paintings. As a companion to the musee d’Oray in Paris, this book has incredibly detailed analysis of each painting and period of Monet’s life. This is an excellent, all-in-one print source.

Monet, Claude, and Joseph Baillio. Claude Monet, 1840-1926: Paris, Galeries nationales, Grand Palais, September 22, 2010-January 24, 2011. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux :, 2010.

Monet’s garden in Giverny: inventing the landscape (PRINT)

Specifically all about Monet’s landscapes, this book is devoted to analysis of the artist’s own home oasis. Contains black and white images as well as large color images.

Ferretti, Marina.Monet’s garden in Giverny: inventing the landscape . Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2009.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Auricchio, Laura . “Claude Monet (1840-1926) | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History- The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Home. (accessed July 30, 2012).

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Degas (PRINT)

Part of the Art Classics series, this small book covers Degas’s most famous works with a short description and analysis on the adjacent page. This source has a really helpful time line of Degas’s life at the end, as well as an entertaining account by Ambroise Vollard, the famous Parisian art dealer.

Russoli, Franco. Degas. New York: Rizzoli, 2005.

Degas and the ballet: picturing movement (PRINT)

This source focusing specifically on Degas’s fascination with the ballet. It contains analysis of his sculpture, pencil sketches, and oil paintings.

Kendall, Richard, and Jill DeVonyar. Degas and the ballet: picturing movement. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 20112011.

Degas’s: Dancers at the barre : point and counterpoint (PRINT)

This source also focuses on Degas’s dance related pieces. The contains a technical analysis of his drawing skills and a critical interview with ballet dancer Christopher Wheeldon. This also contains a yearly chronology of Degas’s life and complete works.

Degas, Edgar. Degas’s: Dancers at the barre : point and counterpoint. Washington, DC: Phillips Collection, 2011.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (PRINT)

This source provides a lot of general biography about Renoir and traces the  accompanied by commentaries discuss each individual work. Illustrations show the artist at varied points in his career, his contemporaries, and comparative works.

Pach, Walter. Pierre Auguste Renoir. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Publishers, 2003.

Renoir’s women (PRINT)

Specifically containing a display of Renoir’s female portraits, this contains mostly images and has very little text.

Dumas, Ann, and John Bruce Collins. Renoir’s women. London: Merrell, 2005.

Primary Sources:

Edgar Degas, Notebooks & Sketch

These journal entries and sketch come from the primary source companion book to the textbook The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. Perspective from the actual artists is very important and these reprints make his thoughts and opinions easy to read.

Lualdi, Katherine J.. “Chapter 23: Empire, Industry, and Everyday Life.” In Sources of the making of the west: peoples and cultures. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2012. 200-203.

Monet by Monet

This book contains quotes about life, art, painting, and society written by Monet. Sources were found in journals, letters between companions, and transcribed conversations.

Monet, Claude, and Rachel Barnes. Monet by Monet. New York: Knopf, 1990.

Renoir by Renoir

The same concept as the title listed above.

Renoir, Pierre-Auguste, and Rachel Barnes. Monet by Monet. New York: Knopf, 1990.

Interactive Sources:

bio. (Claude Monet)

This is a four minute video on the biography of Monet and the origins of French Impressionism. Contains commentary from international historians, and an overview of his personal stylistic periods.

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Part of the Metropolitian Museum of Art in New York City, these timelines contain loads of overview.There is one for France from 1800-1900 that includes specific events in the Impressionist movement and influencial paintings. All information is within an easy to read timeline format that allows the researcher to easily click through movements leading up to and following Impressionism in France.