Archive for category Subject: Impressionism

Painting Like The Impressionists || Bruce Yardley

Back in the days of the atelier method, students (apprentices) worked in the studio of a master, initially grinding and mixing colours and preparing canvases before being allowed to work on backgrounds and eventually completing works to which the great man perhaps only added a couple of brushstrokes. The point is that you can learn a lot about the craft of painting by studying what has gone before and immersing yourself in the background business.

The Impressionists were a breath of fresh air in the world of art, though it was seen as more of a cold blast at the time and their influence is felt to the present day. Almost any tutor will tell you to work loosely, almost as if there’s no other way.

The great work on the subject, from the practical point of view, is Bernard Dunstan’s Painting Methods of The Impressionists, but that appeared some forty years ago and is mostly illustrated in black and white. We’re due another look. It’s pleasing, therefore, to be able to report that this is excellent and a worthy successor to Dunstan’s oeuvre. Bruce Yardley examines in considerable detail not just the way the Impressionists worked, but how they looked, saw and interpreted, which is after all the heart of their vision. We accept, indeed now expect, that the viewer will do a lot of the work and that the artist is a guide rather than an instructor. To an extent, it’s a reaction to the realism of photography and a way that art can re-invent itself to exist alongside that.

There’s a great deal to get into here, both visually and verbally, and this is a book to read rather than keep open beside the easel, even though there are exercises and demonstrations; you can work on these later.

If you want to have a go at being an Impressionist yourself, Bruce provides plenty of information about original brushes, paints and canvases and explains where they can still be obtained. I’m not sure that looking backward like this is either necessary or desirable, but it might be a fun exercise, for all that.

If you love and want to understand the Impressionists, this is a very thorough guide.

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Wynford Dewhurst – Manchester’s Monet || Roger Brown

If you’re unfamiliar with the work of Wynford Dewhurst, you might regard the “Monet” claim as bold, perhaps even preposterous. Even a quick glance at this magnificent book will dispel that impression, though. The similarities are remarkable, but it’s also apparent that Dewhurst has a vision of his own and is no mere copyist.

Having initially begun training as a lawyer, Dewhurst made his way to Paris at the age of 27, in 1891, to study art and was immediately attracted to Impressionism. His book, Impressionist Painting: its Genesis and Development, which was published in 1904, was dedicated to Claude Monet. It was the first major study of the movement to be published in English. His contentious thesis was that the English landscape tradition, and especially the work of Constable and Turner, was the at the root of French painting of the day.

It’s clear from the generous number and quality of the illustrations here that Dewhurst had a genuine and serious talent. There is no doubt that he was emulating the work of the man he regarded as the master, and who became his mentor, but his own stands well alongside that of other Impressionists and the English landscape painters he regarded as their precedent. You can judge for yourself, as their work also appears in the book.

Roger Brown, something of a specialist in this field, has resurrected the reputation of a man who, in the end, became something of a footnote in the history of art, despite having been an important figure in his time; albeit he produced little work after 1926 and died in 1941 in relative obscurity. The book accompanies an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery that, on the basis of what appears here, mérite le détour.

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How To Read An Impressionist Painting || James H Rubin

I sometimes suspect there may be more books on Impressionism than there are paintings. Certainly, it’s becoming harder and harder to come up with a new approach. There are histories, chronological and regional studies, biographies of individual artists and attempts to subdivide the movement and to extend its sphere of influence. At least it was a movement, and not a later grouping-together of a number of artists who practiced at roughly the same time and place and were maybe subject to vaguely similar influences.

The organisation here is by subject matter, which shuffles the pack more than a little. Different, and differing, artists sit side-by-side and schools-within-schools are ignored. It definitely provides a different perspective to see landscapes by Renoir, Pissarro, Manet and Morisot within pages of each other, as well as a (slight) surprise to find them grouped as “Promenades and Travel”, although the chapter headings, such as “Family and Friends” and “Interiors and Still Life” are generally sensible and do not feel forced. There is, overall, no sense of answers being made to fit questions or a theory justified on scant evidence.

The idea behind the book is to link the artists with the general culture of the times (it says here). Well, yes, I suppose that’s what generally happens when you start writing about Impressionism, but it would be unfair to criticise or diminish the book for that. It’s a brave and generally successful attempt, as long as you like the often serendipitous juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated works. On the other hand, if you find the collection confusing, it wouldn’t be for you. I’m in the positive camp, though.

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