Edouard Manet was a major figure concerning the transition from the traditional Realism of painting to the Impressionist movement in the 19th century. Born in Paris in 1832, Manet was the son of two upper class families, but refused the future given to him to pursue his passion of painting. His passion would eventually lead him to become one of the most academically critical and innovative painters of Modern art. His subjects were usually portraits, but his body of work revitalized the genre of "history painting" and had an active sense of civic duty through art communication.
His works generally conveyed a sense of leisure and focused primarily on the bourgeois environment he had grown accustomed to as a young man. The first of our two images is of this style and portrays a cat among flowers, and is a fine example of the aquatint method discussed in the section on Goya. Note the subtleties of tone throughout, ranging from a solid black to medium grays and finally to the pure white of the cat's chest and neck.
The second, but earlier work, displays a group of Gitanos, or gypsies. The focal figure of this image looks travel worn and gazes directly out at the viewer. This sense of an image having a gaze was a signature trait of many of Manet's works. The woman and child are carefully placed in front of the older man, who seems to be preparing for a very large drink of wine. This image reiterates the very traditional style that Manet so carefully adjusted throughout his career which led him to much fame and success.
One of the great founders of the Impressionists and even a major voice of Post-Impressionism, Camille Pissarro was a friend and mentor to many of the artists of his time. His fatherly guidance led to the collective works of artists such as Paul Gauguin, who used to paint in Pissarro's garden, and Paul Cezanne, our next artist, and Vincent van Gogh. Pissarro also holds the honor of being the only artist to have exhibited in all eight of the Impressionist exhibitions in Paris.
As an artist, Pissarro insisted upon illustrating people as they were in everyday life, and not dressed up in a pre-envisioned set. The piece in our collection is entitled Street from the Grocery in Rouen, and illustrates a scene of everyday French life in the city of Rouen in Northern France. His loose and seemingly rushed image gives the viewer a sense of catching not only a scene, but a moment in history. The faint details of the distant turrets gives one a sense of lighting and the haze of distant landmarks. Three years before he created this piece a critic described him as "..an objective chronicler of one of the many facets of contemporary life". This legacy as a man of the moment was not always regarded with much praise and many critics reacted badly to the initial onset of Impressionism, claiming it's subject matter "vulgar" and "commonplace".
Paul Cezanne was one of the formative artists during a time in which the purpose and nature of art was rapidly evolving. He is often credited as being an important figure in the shift from formalistic Impressionism to the bold, new ideas of Cubism. His style was greatly influenced by the instruction and mentoring he received from Pissarro, but was nonetheless a unique, and innovative style of painting. His passing came in 1906 of pneumonia, only seven years after he made the piece before you.
Like in many of his self-portraits Cezanne has a beard, but unlike his early works it is trimmed into a neat goatee. This portrait is not only an image of a great artist, but also of an aging man. This is a glimpse through the eyes of Cezanne, who was 60 years old, practically hermitted away in a cabin with his wife, his mother had died two years ago, and he had been struggling with diabetes for nine years. After four years of living in the cabin, however, Cezanne and his wife separated and he opened a new studio and painted there until his death.