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Pissaro. The First Impressionist Show ( 4)

(The following paintings were exhibited at the First Impressionist Show, 1874)
Rehearsal of a Ballet on Stage by Edgar Degas


In 1873 Claude Monet brought up once again the idea of opening a group exhibition at their own expense. An active campaign to recruit participants began among the artists.
Pissarro invited Cezanne, although the others hardly agreed to his participation, as they feared that the public might be outraged by his canvases. But Pissarro was so convicting that his friend was finally accepted.
Degas hoped that Edouard Manet would join the group, but the painter had no intention of doing so. One of the reasons given when he was invited to exhibit with others was : "I'll never commit myself with M.Cezanne". He believed that only participation in the Salon could bring real recognition.

Wild Poppies near Argenteuil by Claude Monet


The painters brought together 165 works for exhibition. Renoir's brother Edmond was editing the catalog. He had difficulties with Degas who wasn't ready till the last minute. Monet also caused trouble for he sent too many paintings and upset Edmond by the monotony of his titles: "Entrance of a Village", "Leaving the Village", "Morning in a Village". When Edmond ojected Monet calmly told him: 'Why don't you just put Impression?'
Monet later explained that he had selected for the exhibition a painting done in Le Havre from his window: the sun appearing in damp vapors, in the foreground a few shipmasts pointing. "I was asked to give a title for the catalog. I couldn't very well call it a view of Le Havre. So I said : "Put Impression". Indeed, the painting was cataloged as Impression, Sunrise. It was one of two views Monet had painted in 1872.


Impression, Sunrise, 1872, by Claude Monet




The exhibition opened April 15th, 1874, and was to last for 1 month. The hours were from 10 to 6 and also in the evenings from 8 to 10. The entrance was 1 franc, catalogs being sold for 50 centimes. First the exhibition seemed to be well attended, but the public went there mostly to laugh. Someone invented a joke to the effect that these painters' method consisted in loading a pistol with several tubes of paint and firing at a canvas, then finishing off the work with a signature.
On April 25 an article appeared in the Charivari (satirical magazine), signed by Louis Leroy, which under the title "Exhibition of the Impressionists" summed up the attitude of both its author and the general public.

La Maison du Pendu by Paul Cezanne


"Oh, it was indeed a strenuous day, " wrote the critic, "when I ventured into the first exhibition on the boulevard des Capucines in the company of M. Joseph Vincent, landscape painter, pupil of Bertin (the academic master), recepient of medals and decorations under several governments!
"Upon entering the first room, Joseph Vincent received an initial shock in front of the Dancer by M. Renoir. 'What a pity', he said to me, 'that the painter, who has the certain understanding of color, doesn't draw better; his dancer's legs are as cottony as the gauze of her skirts.'


Dancer by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1874


...'Then, very quietly, with my most naive air, I led him before the Ploughed Field by M.Pissarro. At the sight of this astounding landscape, the good man thought that the lenses of his spectacles were dirty. He wiped them carefully and replaced them on his nose.
'By Michalon!' he cried. 'What on earth is that?'
'Those furrows? That frost? But they are palette scrapings placed uniformly on a dirty canvas. It has neither head nor tail, top nor bottom, front nor back.'
'Perhaps.. but the impression is there'
Well, it's a funny impression!..'


White Frost by Camille Pissarro


...The poor man rambled in this way quite peacefully, and nothing led me to anticipate the unfortunate accident which was to be the result of his visit to this hair-raising exhibition. He even sustained, without major injury, viewing the Fishing Boats Leaving the Harbor by M. Claude Monet, perhaps because I tore him away from dangerous contemplation of this work before the small, noxious figures in the foreground could produce their effect.
Unfortunately, I was imprudent enough to leave him too long in front of the Boulevard des Capucines, by the same painter...

Boulevard des Capucines by Claude Monet, 1873


...I attempted to calm him by showing him the St.Denis Canal by M.Lepine and the Butte Montmartre by M.Ottin, both quite delicate in tone; but fate was strongest of all: the Cabbages of M.Pissarro stopped him as he was passing by and from red he became scarlet.

After the article appeared, the artist Gaston de Latouche wrote to Dr.Gachet who exhibited his Cezanne The Modern Olympia, that he was going to serve as a guard at the exhibition and he would keep an eye on his canvas, but he couldn't garantee its safety.
One of the Paris Salon reviewers stated: "We have seen the exhibition by these impressionists on the boulevard des Capucines, at Nadar's. M.Monet, Pissarro, Mlle Morisot, etc., to have declared war on beauty."

A Modern Olympia by Paul Cezanne


Not many paintings were sold at the exhibition, in the end the great majority of 30 participants didn't even earn enough for their annual dues of 61 francs (for the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, which the artists founded before the exhbition and liquidated right after it).

La Loge (The Theater Box) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Renoir couldn't obtain 500 francs for this painting, for which his brother and a new model, Nini, had posed. The artist pressed Père Martin into paying 425 francs for it, the money he desperately needed for his rent.


Now Père Martin refused to sell Pissarro's canvases and had been telling everyone that the painter had no chance of succeeding if he kept painting in his "heavy, common style with that muddy palette of his".
Duret wrote to Pissarro, trying to sum up the situation: "You have succeeded after quite a long time in acquiring a public of selct and tasteful art lovers, but they are not the rich patrons who pay big prices. .. I am afraid that before getting to where you will readily sell for 1,500 and 2,000, you will need to wait many years. Corot had to reach 75 to have his pictures get beyond the 1,000 franc note.."
Pissarro's situation was critical. The painter, his wife and children left Pontoise to take refuge in Brittany where his wealthy friend Piette had a farm.

The word "impressionism", coined in ridicule, was soon accepted by the artists. It was good enough to underline the common element in their efforts.


Camille Pissarro, French Impressionist (1)
,(2), (3)

Hide and Seek by Berthe Morisot, 1873

The Craddle by Berthe Morisot

The Artist's Sister, Mme Pontillon Seated on the Grass by Berthe Morisot

Harvesters by Renoir, 1873

Laundress by Degas

Portrait of Madame Pontillon by Berthe Morisot


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