One way to know a place is through its arts. Part history and part memoir, this book is a gem (I’m using this as part of my guide to Paris). It’s an alternative perspective of Parisian history. Impressionism features bright colors, easygoing open-air scenes, spontaneity, broad brushstrokes, and the play of light. However, these painters have a love=hate relationship with the “Impressionist” label. What united these artists was their commitment to everyday subjects (cafés, street scenes, landscapes, workers, people). Later in their careers, they all went their own ways and developed their own individual styles.
The Impressionists knew each other. Manet first met Degas while copying the same painting at the Louvre. Monet and Renoir set up their canvases in the country and painted side by side. Renoir painted with Cézanne and employed the mother of Utrillo as a model. Toulouse-Lautrec lived two blocks from Van Gogh. Van Gogh painted in Arles with Gauguin. Van Gogh’s work was some of the first bought by an admiring Rodin.
They all learned from each other and taught each other, and they all influenced the next generation’s artists (Matisse and Picasso), who created Modern art. All this happened in Paris! Some of them might have had an upper-class upbringing and some formal art training. They rejected a “normal” career (lawyer, banker, grocer) to become artists, got classical art training, exhibited in the Salon, became fascinated by Realist subjects, but grew tired of the salon’s dogmatism.