This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
By Geo. H. Boughton, R.A
Crayon Study By Geo. H. Boughton R.A.
The Founder of the "Impressionists."
IN view of the interest that has been manifested in M. Durand-Ruel's striking and instructive exhibition at the Grafton Gallery, of works of the French impressionists, it may not be amiss to consider the undoubtedly original though much-discussed talent of the man who is generally recognised as the initiator of the most important French art movement of the last third of the nineteenth century.
Edouard Manet was born at Paris in 1833. At the age of seventeen, he embarked for Rio Janeiro, in spite of his desire to become a painter. One voyage sufficed to disgust him with sea life, and when he came back he visited Italy and Holland, and finally entered the studio of Thomas Couture, where he remained six years. In i860 he exhibited his first truly personal work, "The Absinthe Drinker." In 1863 his pictures exhibited at the "Salon des Refuses" were the talk of the town, as also were his "Entombment" and his "Olympia" exhibited in the Salon of 1864 and 1865. Since then Manet constantly exhibited at the Salon. In 1882, he was created Knight of the Legion of Honour. In 1884 he married a Dutch lady, and thereafter, being amply provided with fortune, he lived a quiet and uneventful life, working according to his convictions and without heeding the advice of picture-dealers.
Physically, Manet was an elegant and handsome man with blue eyes, blond hair and beard, distinguished manners and brilliant wit. His work has provoked alternately admiration and laughter; nevertheless it cannot be denied that it has given an impulse, and established a new current. He has left disciples who may not all avow their master, but who cannot conceal his influence in their work. Nay more, it we place Manet, as we may justly, at the head of the "Impressionist" movement in its largest sense, we may say that he has no need to be avenged of posterity; he is already avenged, for, in the Salons of the past twenty years, "Impressionism" has been gradually triumphing to a greater and greater extent.
Let us define what is meant by "Impressionism." At the beginning of the Rennaissance, extreme diversity of schools and individualities manifested itself in painting. While the sublime masters of Florence, Rome, and Milan devoted themselves to the exclusive study of line and modelling, others, like Giorgione, at Venice, and Correggio, at Parma, sought to attenuate the severities of the abstract style by enveloping them in the softness of supple touch, and harmonious and brilliant colouring. The impression that these artist received from nature was not a plastic abstraction that could be rendered simply by analytic drawing. More tender, less superhuman than the stylists and the mystics, they endeavoured not to realise types of purely ideal beauty, but to express poetically the harmony that emanates at first sight from an ensemble of form and colour. Well, due allowance being made for the differences of times and surroundings, the aim of these painters was the same as that of the "Impressionist" painters of the present day.
Manet, again, may be classed among the leaders of the "realist" school with Courbet, Vollon, Roybet, Carolus Duran, Bonnat, Bastien-Lepage, and Cazin. But it may be useful to remark that a painter may be a realist in two ways. Some, like Ribot, physiographs above everything else, take a man or an object, and treat it out of love of the man himself, or of the object, and express the essence, the strikingness, the whole materiality and energy of their model, which they isolate from everything else. Others, like Manet, concern themselves especially with the surroundings and the atmosphere, and pay more heed to the place a figure holds, and the role it plays in an ensemble than to its individual value. These are the two main systems of realist painting, and necessarily they are equally good; for, as nature provides at the same time individualities and "ensembles" or compositions, painters diversely gifted can, according to their temperaments or inclination, devote themselves either to the former or to the latter.
How did Manet come to adopt what we may call his point of view ? Probably, after spending so many years in copying the masters and in looking at nature through the spectacles of others whose eyesight was different from his own, he comprehended, one fine day, that he was doing no good, and that there only remained one course open, namely, to look at nature with his own eyes, and to paint as he saw according to his own faculties of vision and comprehension. Of standards of taste and ideals he took no account; for him they were simply historical facts and not absolute expressions of truth. And so, sitting clown before his model, Manet saw it not in outline and in detail, but in masses of different tints of a bright tone of colour. The general aspect of his pictures is luminously blond; the colour is applied in patches; the distances are indicated by the exactness of the tones; drawing, perspective, and all details are simplified, and the whole effect produced on the background by means of powerful masses of luminous colour, reminding one often of the simple power of Japanese paintings and engravings. In his pictures we must seek neither absolute beauty nor ideas; the artist paints neither history nor soul. For this reason he is not to be judged as a moralist, or as a litterateur, but as a painter.
The influence of Manet on the modern French school of painting ranks with that of Delacroix, Corot, Millet, and Courbet, and this influence has acted simultaneously with the influence of the group of so-called "Impressionists" who proceed from the great naturalist painters, and from Manet conjointly, and who also acknowledge a considerable debt to the lessons of Japanese art. Courbet was a master-workman, only as a painter he remained in the broad tradition of Titian, Rembrandt, and Paul Veronese. But since Courbet, the artistic movement has continued, and artists have come into prominence, who, without having Courbet's solidity and beauty of execution, have broadened the formula of painting by making a more profound study of light, and by discarding more completely than Courbet did the traditional methods of schools. Manet and the "Impressionists," MM. Claude Monet, Degas, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley and Mlle. Morisot, have gone a step further than their predecessors; they have abandoned the prepared light of the studio, and painted nature bathed in real sunlight. While thus painting veritably in the open air, they have come to study light in its causes and effects, and they have struggled valiantly with the difficulties of execution of painting nature with its diffused light, and its continual variations of colouration. Certainly it is easier to command the light and control it by curtains and screens and so obtain fixed effects; only the artist in these conditions remains limited and conventional. Nature does not have the simplified and purely conventional notation that the traditions of the schools attribute to her. But the force of habit is such that the public was stupefied when the "Impressionists" exhibited pictures with blue grass, violet roads, and water flowing along with all the colours of the prism. Naturally, there was an element of exaggeration in this work; but essentially the observation of the "Impressionists" was true.
Edouard Manet, Founder of the "Impressionist" School.
Crayon Drawing by the late Fantin-Latour.
To sum up, it may be said without fear of contradiction that to Manet and the "Impressionists" modern painting owes a more exact research into the causes and effects of light having their influence both on design and on colour; it owes the privilege of painting in the clear light of the sun, and of seeking to render the most delicate aerial shades and tones. Such seems to be in general terms the nature of the influence of Manet and the "Impressionists." E. V.
What the French call a "pochade" - a convenient term for which we have no equivalent - is a rapid study of impression or effect, mainly by means of values - that is to say, it is an incomplete study, made for the purpose of securing a passing effect or a souvenir of a characteristic subject which there is not time to study fully. Painters of the Impressionist school have brought the pochade to such a point that, with them, it takes the place of the picture. They are able to say and to show a good deal for themselves; nevertheless, they could not do so well as Impressionists if they had not the ability to paint the same things in a calmer and more painstaking spirit. It will take at least three or four years' practice before a beginner in painting can usefully make pochades of the slightest sort, and to do such work direct from nature and in a single sitting as is shown at the Impressionist Exhibition at the Grafton Gallery. As the student attains knowledge and facility, he will find it more and more useful to make pochades, as the best possible bases for pictures to be finished in the studio.
Sketches in the nature of a pochade may be made as memoranda on a walking trip through a country where you intend afterwards to make thorough studies. In the latter each tone should be experimented with and carefully considered, and, if necessary, taken out with.the palette-knife or the entire work wiped off with a rag over and over again until every tone is right and harmonious. This will take a great deal of time, especially at first, so that, instead of thinking of making several sketches a day, you may be satisfied to make one good study per week, and that of the simplest sort of subject and as near home as possible. It is, therefore, well to choose carefully your subject beforehand, so as not to waste time.
Claude Monet. Sketch by Manet.
At the recent Conference of Art Teachers Mr. R. Catterson Smith showed a number of drawings of some of his younger pupils at the Birmingham Municipal Art School, including several representations of rabbits from life. Rabbits, it may be remarked, also afford an excellent preliminary study in animal painting. They are readily domesticated, and when they become accustomed to their surroundings prove very docile models. Their forms are graceful enough, and the whites and grays of their fur are admirably adapted for studies of texture. Begin by catching your rabbit, then sketch and draw him in every position and variety of action you can get him into. When you have become tolerably familiar with his form, paint him.