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Impressionism is arguably the most famous French painting movement ever. The actual name "Impressionism" was coined by the French art critic Louis Leroy, after visiting the first exhibition of Impressionist painting in 1874 where he saw Impression: Soleil Levant (1872) by Claude Monet. Ironically, Monet only decided on the title when completing the exhibition catalogue, and almost named the work View of the Harbour at Le Havre! In total, between 1874 and 1882, the Impressionists staged seven exhibitions, all in Paris.
First appearing in Paris during the late 1860s and early 1870s, Impressionism was not recognized initially as anything special.
The Impressionists were able to gather up these previously rare elements and organise their use so as to express themselves in a particular, unique and original way. The human element is no less important. Impressionism seems to have been born of the need for freedom, of an enormous zest for life, and also in the search for basic transformation of painting from the point of view of its meaning.
Impressionist painters want to move quickly and move ahead, to test out strong and urgent sensations, and they do this instinctively because in their case, and particularly in the case of Monet, instinct plays an essential part; they resort to light and movement. But over and above these two elements it is the live, violent feeling that they strive to capture and express. Against the ideal span of time which the Renaissance painters sought to express through permanence, they assert an active and dynamic quality in such a way that experiencing the sensation allows all to seize on it and live through it. Thus the Impressionists are in a sense realists. They produce in painting one of the immediate fundamental ideas of our consciousness and Zola was able to feel close to them in their beginnings.
Oscar-Claude Monet (14 November 1840 – 5 December 1926) was a French painter, a founder of French Impressionist painting and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature.
Monet constantly proves his inventiveness by meeting the particular needs of the subject. The systematic character of the project, however, is brilliant.
Tension exasperates him. To translate the abundant fruits of his perception, he resorts to instant change in method. He paints in clots, commas, dots, juxtaposed blotches or zebra stripes as the case may be. His subject matter is sometimes shiny, sometimes dull, sometimes heaped up and in the form of depth. It became all the more provoking when one only wanted to see in it an effect of nature, a vibration of the atmosphere, whereas it was trying to resolve through these quite a different problem. Thus these series must be taken as a sort of exercise in which Monet measures his strength, his power of resistance and the force and accuracy of his analysis. They prepare him for the famous Nympheas suite which is to become his masterpiece. He comes across the theme in 1899 but it is not until 1916 - well after Post-Impressionist Painting has come and gone - that he undertakes the great decorative work which is now in the Orangery Museum. He devotes all his strength to it. On his death on 26 December 1924 it was his last thought, his last preoccupation.