Monet and Courbet Make An Impression

A bunch of ragtag artists in Paris, including Monet and Renoir, overthrew aesthetics and invented Impressionism. They dared to dab their paintbrushes. France’s establishment was unimpressed. Art critics panned the Impressionists’ first gallery opening in Paris in 1874 — the term “impressionism” was actually an epithet coined by one such fussy critic. But the French public loved impressionism, strict realism be damned. Soon it was exported to America, crossing the Atlantic in the opposite direction of republican democracy.

Impressionism had two main American imitators, both of whose works will be displayed at the Norton Museum of Art today next to those of French masters Monet, Courbet, and Pissarro. One of the Yanks, John Singer Sargent, was a renowned portraitist. In contrast to the French, he often painted photo-realistic scenes that have the dream aura of impressionism, but not the blurriness. Sargent’s style even hints at Pop Art. Warhol said Sargent “made everybody look glamorous. Taller. Thinner. But they all have mood.”

“Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism” runs through May 10. Admission is $8 or less. Get to the Norton Museum of Art at 1451 S. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach. Call 561-832-5196, or visit norton.org.
Feb. 7-May 10, 2009

 
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