These images are a series of studies of Tiverton woods in Devon, focusing in particular on the zones where there is a meeting of coniferous forest plantation with native deciduous woodlands. The juxtaposition of these two tree types, has a striking effect on the atmosphere of the area, which i explore in this work. I use mixed media of acrylic, pastel, charcoal and pencil and have chosen eye-level views, to reflect the natural gaze an onlooker would experience when passing through such an environment. The work was carried out between Dec 2002 and Mar 2003.
Early Impressionists broke the picture-making rules of academic painting. They began by giving colors, freely brushed, primacy over line, drawing inspiration from the work of painters such as Eugene Delacroix. They also took the act of painting out of the studio and into the world. Previously, not only still lifes and portraits but also landscapes had been painted indoors, but the Impressionists found that they could capture the momentary and transient effects of sunlight by painting 'en plein air'. They used short, "broken" brush strokes of pure and unmixed colour, not smoothly blended as was the custom at the time. Painting realistic scenes of modern life, they emphasized vivid overall effects rather than details.
The public were at first hostile but gradually came to believe that the Impressionists had captured a fresh and original vision, even if it did not meet with approval of the artistic establishment. By recreating the sensation in the eye that views the subject, rather than recreating the subject, and by creating a welter of techniques and forms, Impressionism became seminal to various movements in painting which would follow, including Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism.
In an atmosphere of change as Emperor Napoleon III rebuilt Paris and waged war, the Académie des beaux-arts dominated the French art scene in the middle of the 19th century. The Académie was the upholder of traditional standards for French painting. Historical subjects, religious themes, and portraits were valued (landscape and still life were not), and the Académie preferred carefully finished images which mirrored reality when closely examined. Color was somber and conservative, and the traces of brush strokes were suppressed, concealing the artist's personality, emotions, and working techniques.
The Académie held an annual art show, the Salon de Paris, and artists whose work displayed in the show won prizes, garnered commissions, and enhanced their prestige. Only art selected by the Académie jury was exhibited in the show.
The impressionists painted in a lighter and brighter style than most of the generation before them. They were more interested in painting landscape and contemporary life than in recreating scenes from history. Each year, they submitted their art to the Salon, only to see the juries reject their best efforts in favor of trivial works by artists working in the approved style. A core group of young realists, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille, who had studied under Charles Gleyre, became friends and often painted together. Soon they were joined by Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, and Armand Guillaumin.
In 1863, the jury rejected The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe) by Édouard Manet primarily because it depicted a nude woman with two clothed men on a picnic. While nudes were routinely accepted by the Salon when featured in historical and allegorical paintings, the jury condemned Manet for placing a realistic nude in a contemporary setting. The jury's sharply worded rejection of Manet's painting, as well as the unusually large number of rejected works that year, set off a firestorm among French artists. Manet was admired by Monet and his friends, and led the discussions at Café Guerbois where the group of artists frequently met.
After seeing the rejected works in 1863, Emperor Napoleon III decreed that the public be allowed to judge the work themselves, and the Salon des Refusés (Salon of the Refused) was organized. While many viewers came only to laugh, the Salon des Refusés drew attention to the existence of a new tendency in art, and attracted more visitors than the regular Salon.
After seeing the show, critic Louis Leroy (an engraver, painter, and successful playwright), wrote a scathing review in the Le Charivari newspaper. Among the paintings on display was Claude Monet's Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant), which became the source of the derisive title of Leroy's article, The Exhibition of the Impressionists. Leroy declared that Monet's painting was at most a sketch and could hardly be termed a finished work.
Short, thick strokes of paint are used to quickly capture the essence of the subject rather than its details.
Colors are applied side-by-side with as little mixing as possible, creating a vibrant surface. The optical mixing of colors occurs in the eye of the viewer.
Grays, and dark tones, are produced by mixing complimentary colors. In pure Impressionism the use of black paint is avoided. Wet paint is placed into wet paint without waiting for successive applications to dry, producing softer edges and intermingling of color. Impressionist paintings do not exploit the transparency of thin paint films (glazes) which earlier artists built up carefully to produce effects. The surface of an Impressionist painting is typically opaque.
The play of natural light is emphasized. Close attention is paid to the reflection of colors from object to object.
In paintings made en plein air (outdoors), shadows are boldly painted with the blue of the sky as it is reflected onto surfaces, giving a sense of freshness and openness that was not captured in painting previously. (Blue shadows on snow inspired the technique.)
Painters throughout history had occasionally used these methods, but Impressionists were the first to use all of them together and with such boldness. Earlier artists whose works display these techniques include Frans Hals, Diego Velázquez, Peter Paul Rubens, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner. French painters who prepared the way for Impressionism include the Romantic colorist Eugène Delacroix, the leader of the realists Gustave Courbet, and painters of the Barbizon school such as Theodore Rousseau. The Impressionists learned much from the work of Camille Corot and Eugène Boudin, who painted from nature in a style that was close to Impressionism, and who befriended and advised the younger artists.
Impressionists took advantage of the mid-century introduction of premixed paints in tubes (resembling modern toothpaste tubes) which allowed artists to work more spontaneously both outdoors and indoors. Previously, each painter made his or her own paints by grinding and mixing dry pigment powders with linseed oil.