Be Impressed by the Impressionists

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Characterized by its bright paintings with quick loose brush strokes of “plein air” scenery, the use of relative color and the hallmark clarity of the painting from further away, impressionist artwork saw its emergence in the second half of the 19th century in France, with artists like Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Auguste Renoir.

Feeling dissatisfied with his career and the stiff academic rules that demanded painting historical events or mythological creatures, Édouard Manet led the art world into a new era by changing the perspective of the viewer from the subject matter to the technique employed in painting the subject.

Manet manipulated color, tone and texture. By doing this, he paved the way for Monet and his contemporaries to shift away from the darker and more rigid paintings they had been schooled in, and to explore new paths, playing with color as Manet did, copying Eugène Boudin’s style of painting outdoors, lining up to capture landscapes or rivers under natural light.

The first group exhibition of this new school took place in 1874 at the French Academy and featured works by Monet, Renoir and Degas.

Although the exhibition was mocked by fellow artists and critics, it gave birth to the term “impressionists” — used as an insult by journalist Louis Leroy for the French satirical magazine Le Charivari.

The artists quickly adopted the term as descriptive of their artistic intentions.

The group of impressionist artists were not swayed and continued to paint in this controversial new manner, coming together on seven further occasions to showcase their works.

Just over a decade had passed before the new artform began to dissolve, with each artist going off to pursue their own aesthetics.

But in the short time impressionism existed, it served as an artistic catalyst for a new era and style, opening the door for post-impressionist painters like Paul Gaugin, Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh.

Impressionist artists left their mark on history by breaking the rules and creating a new way of showing the natural world.

Today, those marks can be seen in the different styles that have emerged, and, of course, in the paintings they left for us to admire — works such as “Landscape in Port-Villez” or “Valle Buona, Near Bordighera” by Monet — both of which are currently on exhibit at the National Art Museum (Munal) in Mexico City, as part of the “Monet, Luces del Impresionismo” (“Monet, Lights of Impressionism”) exhibition.

The Munal is located at Calle de Tacuba 8 in Mexico City’s downtown Centro Histórico.

The impressionist exhibit will remain on display through Sunday, Aug. 27, and can be visited Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is an 85-peso admission fee.



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