Impressionism: Great Art or Boring Artists With the Talent of a Third Grader Fooling Everyone

Impressionism was an art form that was popular late nineteenth century and let me tell you, it was pretty awful. Not all of it was absolutely terrible but, for every Claude Monet there seemed to be a dozen Mary Cassatts out there. In fact impressionism should have just been called “jocking Monet’s style” because that is basically what it was.


The painting above is the painting that started the impressionist movement.  It is a Monet entitled Impression, Sunrise (1872 Paris).  When looking at the mix of simplistic brushstrokes and various shades of blue you get a feeling of calm in the morning.  I find the painting to be intriguing and whenever I look at it I find myself focusing on different things.  Sometimes its the waves in the bottom that are just singular brushstrokes.  Sometimes its smoke from the upper left of the painting that when looked at closely looks like scribbling with paint.  But, every time my eyes are drawn to something different and I am amazed that something this simple can convey so much and be so interesting.  And that is what impressionism was supposed to be.  Capturing a scene or an impression with a kind of simplistic painting style that did not try to hide or blend the brush strokes.  I think that this worked for Monet because he tended to focus primarily on scenery. Even when his paintings had people in them the main focus still seemed to be the scenery.  But, for every painting like the one above there are about a million that look like this:


This is a painting by Mary Cassatt titled Lydia Leaning on her Arms (In a Theatre Box) (1879).  It doesn’t look simple or stripped down so that one can focus on the scene that is being depicted.  It looks like a color by numbers fiasco.  The facial features look like they were done by somebody that had never painted before in their life.  That’s how many of the impressionist works look.  And if the paintings weren’t like that then they were of just terrible subject matter.  Such as this:


This is Edgar Degas’ Dancers at the Bar (1888 Paris).  I enjoy the art style itself.  But, the subject is terrible.  Women stretching?  Seriously?  Why not paint them tying their shoes?  It is just as mundane and uninteresting.  And that is what I think drives me away from impressionism the most.  After the Renaissance and classical period where they painted these dramatic depictions of gods and revolutions and ancient mythical tales the next step in the evolution of painting is Reading by Morisot (1873 Paris) which is a depiction of a lady sitting on the grass reading or Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere (1882 Paris) which looks like it is a painting of a bartender asking you for your drink order?  It’s just so boring.  Look at the next two paintings that I am going to present as an example of this.  The first is:


Oath of the Horatii (1782 France) by Jacques-Louis David.  Look at the subject matter of the painting, a fight between two sets of three brothers to end a war.  Women are fainting.  The babies are being shielded from the battle.  One brother watches as his other brothers are slain only to be inspired by their deaths to make a surprising comeback and defeat the other set of brothers and win the war.  Epic.  Timeless.  Now compare that to this:


This is Plum Brandy (1877 Paris) by Edouard Manet.  This painting is so dull, lifeless, and boring that even the lady in the painting looks bored.  I believe the French call it ennui.  This encapsulates my impression of impressionism.  One man (Monet) with a different idea of how and what to paint and bunch of talentless wannabes that trying to copy him by painting a bunch of boring scenes and failing to varying degrees.

Impression, Sunrise.  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.,_Impression,_soleil_levant.jpg

Lydia Leaning on Her Arms (In a Theatre Box)  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.

Dancers at the Bar.  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.

Oath of the Haratii.  Wikipedia.  Wikimedia Foundation.

Plum Brandy.  The National Gallery of Art.

Edouard Manet.  Encyclopedia Britannica.

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