The American Impressionist Society
-Rooted in French Impressionism and Carrying on the Tradition Today
In Paris, France, around the mid 1800’s, there had existed for many years a famous annual fine art exhibition originally held in the upper rooms of the Louvre Palace, entitled “The Salon des Beaux Arts” (Beaux Arts meaning Fine Art). The Salon was explicitly curated and was an arduously juried exhibition of works meeting the highest standards of realist academic quality. They were indeed hostile toward any bold new art and stood by their rigorous approval methods. Often as many as 3,000 works were denied entrance. In 1863, there were a great many works refused to the Salon and Napoleon, not wanting to upset the artists and voters as it was an election year, hence created the Salon de Refusés, for the refused works that did not meet the rigorous realist criteria to be shown together.
It was here that the new works by artist Edouard Manet were shown depicting everyday scenes with the use of more lively visual brushwork. Instead of the usual iconic heroic, historical or mythical based themes, Manet’s works allowed the viewer into the scene themselves, paintings from daily life with characters that one could actually recognize.
His bold work influenced many artists, in particular, Claude Monet who had begun painting landscapes. Following his friend Eugène Boudin painting live on the shores of the Normandy coast and later influenced by the Barbizon School’s landscapes in the country, Monet became one of the first Impressionist painters. Before this time, every day scenes and simple landscapes were not considered final works of art, suitable to exhibit or sell. “Impressionism” as it later became known was a brand new form of art. Born from this new subject matter and the use of more color, bold visible brushwork, and especially portraying the effects of light and atmosphere, Impressionism, at first looked down upon as unfinished works, became one of the most well known art genres of the art world.
French Impressionism spread not only to other areas of the world such as Russia, but had a profound impact on some important Americans studying abroad in France. Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, James McNeil Whistler, Guy Rose and many more, all picked up influences from this new style of painting and began to incorporate its colors and effects into their works.
Unlike the newspapers and buyers in Paris, American collectors seemed to be more open and accepting of this new style of work. One very important art dealer from the time, Mr. Durand Ruel, took this influence one step further by bringing over 300 Impressionist works by Eduard Monet, Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Gustave Caillebotte, and more to New York in 1886 in an important exhibition that would reach and directly influence more American painters such as Childe Hassam and William Merit Chase.
These early American Impressionists later formed groups such as The Ten, including Robert Reid, John H. Twachtman, Edmund Tarbell, Willard Metcalf, Whistler and Chase. They would funnel down the Impressionists techniques, colors and influence to the rest of America in their own schools and ateliers. Impressionism had spread from these first schools on the East coast all the way to the West by 1910 and lasted till about 1935 creating legendary California Impressionists artists such Edgar Payne, William Wendt and of course Guy Rose who had painted alongside Monet himself.
The American Impressionist Society, Inc. defines American Impressionism as “The concern for light on form, color, and brushstrokes. Allowing equal latitude between these attributes, and recognizing not a single definitive element, but several factors–including high key light and hue, visual breakdown of detail, concern for contemporary life, and cultivation of direct and spontaneous approaches to a subject.”
AIS is very proud to have grown to be one of the most respected national art organizations in America. Rooted in this rich history, we aim to continue the tradition. AIS preserves the Impressionist values and endeavors to bring you new works from artists working in the tradition today each year in our annual exhibitions. We thank you for your continued support.
Author: Vanessa Françoise Rothe, AIS
Derek Penix “Old Harbor in Villefranche” 24x36 oil
Eric Jacobsen “Sunny Day” 18x22 oil
The goal of AIS is to promote the appreciation of Impressionism through workshops, classes, exhibitions, videos and other media. Our annual National Juried Exhibition and our annual "Impressions Small Works Showcase" is open to our members who are legal residents of the United States.
Our exhibitions are coordinated completely by volunteers. We encourage our members to become involved and volunteer.
AIS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. We offer both artist memberships and supporting memberships. Contributions are welcome and are tax deductible.