Celebrating 150 Years Of Impressionism

Take a closer look at the origin and lasting impact of one of the most significant movements of the art world.

2024 marks the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, an art movement which arose in the 19th century. To commemorate the milestone, museums all across Europe have prepared exhibits and events.

READ ALSO: Where It All Began: Celebrating Creative Endeavors Through World Art Day

Origins of a Movement

When the Société Anonyme Coopérative d’Artistes-Peintres, Sculpteurs, etc. was founded, some 30 artists participated in an exhibition which would later become the beginning of the Impressionist movement.

The artists in the collective included the likes of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, and Paul Cézanne. On April 15, 1874, they revealed their works to the public for the first time.

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise (1872) by Claude Monet | Image via Wikimedia Commons

While some appreciated their attempt at breaking from tradition, many were critical of their works. A journalist named Louis Leroy wrote a satirical review, calling it “the exhibition of impressionists,” taking a shot at Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise.

The painting depicts the harbor of Le Havre—a city in northern France—a vivid orange sunrise, and its reflection in the water.

Of Style and Subject

The exhibition did not succeed financially, but Leroy unknowingly coined the name for an entire art movement. The Société Anonyme was dissolved but several of its key members continued staging more exhibitions, with each artist developing their own personal style.

While the Impressionists had stylistic differences, they also had some shared ideas. They rebelled against the traditional standards of their time, which favored historical subjects, religious themes, and portraits.

Late Afternoon in our Meadow (1887) by Camille Pissarro
Late Afternoon in our Meadow (1887) by Camille Pissarro | Image via Wikimedia Commons

Paintings from the Impressionist movement are often characterized by the way they depict contemporary life, focusing on natural light and colors. Some artists even took to working en plein air (outdoors) so they could capture the transient effects of sunlight as they painted landscapes.

150th Anniversary Celebrations

One of the biggest exhibitions celebrating 150 years of Impressionism is at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. Titled Paris 1874: Inventing impressionism, the exhibit features 130 works by the artists from the original 1874 show.

The Musée Marmottan, which owns Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, has lent the piece for the exhibit. It will be in Paris from March 26 to July 14, 2024. Afterward, the exhibit will travel to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It will open later this year, on September 8, and run until January 19, 2025.

Claude Monet's Women with a Parasol at the Musée d'Orsay
Claude Monet’s Women with a Parasol at the Musée d’Orsay | Image via Instagram @museeorsay

In Normandy, home to many Impressionist painters, an Impressionist Festival is taking place from March 22 to September 22, 2024. The region is hosting 150 events to mark the art movement’s 150 years, highlighting both classical and contemporary art. 

One of the highlights is an exhibition of works by contemporary British painter David Hockney. The exhibit is running at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen throughout the festival dates. 

A David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London
A David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London (2012) | Image via Wikimedia Commons

Also a part of the Normandy Festival’s program, an exhibit focusing on the sea is taking place from March 22 to September 22, 2024 at the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny. The sea is a recurrent theme in the works of Impressionist painters such as Monet, Eugène Boudin, and Paul Gauguin.

American stage director Robert Wilson will reveal an audiovisual installation tracing the life of Monet. From May 24th to September 28th, 2024, the installation will be projected on the face of the Rouen Cathedral.

Exhibits in Glasgow, Amsterdam, Potsdam, and Rome will also showcase Impressionist masterpieces. Meanwhile, British art auction house Sotheby’s is hosting a series of events from March 1 to May 31, 2024, including auctions, talks, and more exhibitions.

Banner image via Wikimedia Commons (Woman with a Parasol, facing left by Claude Monet).

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