Name: Jordanna Drego
MEL132 Western Aesthetics
13th July 2011
The Intrasigent Artist or How the Impressionists Got their Name
by Stephen F. Eiseman
The new art , between 1874 and 1877, was both Impressionist and Intransigent, that is, affirmative and individualistic, or radical and democratiic
Most histories of Impressionism provide an account of how the movement got its name.
In an art exhibition in Paris held by a photographer Nadar, thirty artists participated, including Claude Monet, submitted a painting entitled Impression, soleil levant.
Within a week the terms 'impression', 'effect of an impression' and 'quality of impressions' were being employed in the press.
Louis Leroy was apparently the firts to speak of the school of 'impressionists' in his famous satirical dialogue.
This was followed by Jules Castangary who described 'Impressionism'
the name stuck and the third exhibition was named the 'Exhibition of Impressionists'
the members of this exhibition were remembered as Impressionists.
origin of impressionism.
Two aspects of this story of origins concern me.
first, was the basic accuracy of the account
second, what was at stake in naming the new art?
The answers to these questions the author believes will contribute to the history of art and to the ongoing debate on Modernism
the word impressionism entered the vocabulary of art criticism at about the same time that the French positivists were undertaking their studies of perception.
Charles Baudelaire, in 1863 described the Impression produced by things on the spirit of M.G.[uys]
- by 1870 it had become clear that any art based on impressions, that is upon unmediated sensory experience, must resemble the coloured patchwork that it was believed constituted unreflective vision, what Ruskinhad earlier called 'the innocence of the eye'
Theodore Duret said of Manet 'He brings back the vision he casts on things as truly his own........... a particular note of the palette'.
Duret thus detected two aspects in Manet's Impression(ism): first, its utter individuality, and second, its stucture of discrete colour 'notes' juxtaposed against, but not blended with their adjacent tone.
the dual nature of Impressionism also underlay Castagary's celebrated usage of 1874.
Castangary meant to signify the individualism of the artists, an idividualism that corresponded to their technique of laying down a mosaic of colours and forms, which was determined by the impression of the exterior world upon their sense organs.
Impressionism in 1874 thus connoted a vaguely defined technique of painting and an attitude of individualism shared by an assortment of young and middle-aged artists officially led by Manet.
served as a description of unbridled individualism
assured politically moderate criticsthat the new art had broken with increasingly discredited salon conventions, and remained unsullied by any troubling radical affiliations
Individualism was deemed as an essential instrument for the emancipation of citizens from debilitating ties to former political, economic and religious dogma.
Individualism would be necessary in the massive work of reconstructing France after the disasters of the Franco- Prussian War and commune.
The combination of painterly daring and political discretion suggested by the word impressionism helps account for the suprisingly positive reception given to the new art by many critics.
Impressionist was not the only name given to the artists exhibited at Nadar's studio in 1874
The word Intransigent also appeared, and continued to gain popularity until the Impressionists self-naming in 1874.
a critic for Le Fiagio, described the 'brutality of the Intransigents'.
Jules Claretie commented that 'the skill of these Intransigents is nil'
the French word intransigeant, like the English word intransigent, is derived from the spanish neologism los intransigentes, the designation for the anarchist wing of the Spanish Federalist Party of 1872
the intransigents were opposed to the compromises offered by the Fedealist
they believed instead that the Spanish constitutional monarchy could bet be toppled by mass armed resistance and a general strike.
When the constitution' fragile coalition finally collapsed in Feb 1873, the intransigents pressed for Cantonial independence against the newly empowered Benevolent Republicans.
The dispute resulted into civil war.
he perception that was widespread that the newly hatched Spanish Republic might degenerate into a radical Commune.
the links between the two were direct, as it had been the Commune who helped the Federalist challenge in Spain.
Many Communards had foung refudge in Spain, thus precipitating the belief mentioned above.
An attempted Intransigent coup in July 1873, ignited civil war, but without support of the International, the major Spanish cities or France, the rebels were routed.
The last Intransigent stronghold; Cartagena, had submitted to the increasingly conservative Rebublic in January 1874.
with the destruction of Intransigentism in Spain, the worg intranigent entered the political and cultural vocabulary of France.
in March 1875, Phillipe Burty, described the landscapes of Impressionist paintings ' who are here called the Impressionists, elsewhere the Intransigents'
Albert Wolff wrote in his review about the Impressionists that 'they barricade themselves behind their own inadequacy'.
Armand Silvestre spoke of Manet and 'the little school of Intransigents among whom he is considerd the leader'.
Gustav Caillebotte composed a late will where in a sum of his money would go to organize an exhibition of works by impressionist or intransigent painters.
Responding to a favourable review in the radical Le Rappel, an anonymous critic wrote,' let us profit that this circumstance ............ could be more natural'
the assertion that the impressionists had joined hands with the Intransigentsin politics was given further support by Louis Enault in Le Constitutionnel, which he called 'Exposition des Intransigents'where he recalls the origins of the word transigent.
A critic for La Gazette , Marius Chaumelin, was more precise about the politics of Intransigent Art and the approapriateness of its name. He claimed the principles of the new art- reform of the laws of colour and design, were derived from the principles of political Intransigents i.e. The radicals who had gained some thirty seats in the March 1876 elections of the Chamber of Deputies.
Not all evaluations of the new art as Intransigent came from the political right.
The critic Stephane Mallarme described with the greatest clarity as well as the greatest subtlety the link between radical, or Intransigent, art and politics.
He percieved the new art as an expression of working class vission and ideology
Mallarme argued that , as Romantic fantasy and imagination characterized the first half of the century. The impressionist art marked a significant new stage in social evolution.
The Impressionist artist became the eyes of the 'energetic modern worker'
Mallarme believed that Impressionism was a movement with a radical co-operative programme and the currency of the name Intransigent signalled to him the widespread perception of that fact.
Key words: Romantic Fantacy, radical co-operative programme.
Mallarme offered a set of homologies between Impressionist art and working class or radical vission.
he began by noting that intransigent art or politics stripped away outmoded principles, seeking a blank slate upon which to write a new cultural and political agenda.
The key term in Mallarme' dialectic was 'The theory of the open air' by which academic formulas were jettisoned in favour of a greater truth.
Open air painting thus provided an objective justification for the discarding of academic traditions of individualist caprice.
He felt that Impressionists stripped away results in pictorial clarity and flatness that mimics the look of the simplepopular art forms favoured by the rising class of workers.
Manet's sea princess illuminates this vaunted simplicity, revealing how the artist's technique of cropping reiterates pictorial flatness.
faced with such conflicting interpretations of such formidable writers as Castangary and Mallarme, the reader by now be wondering whether the new art , between 1874 and 1877, was in fact Impressionist or Intransigent, that is, affirmative and individualistic, or radical and democratic.
the essence of the new art was its determined position between the polarities Impressionist/Intransigent.
The new art must be understood as a signal instance of Modernist dialectics.
Works that primarily explore their own physical origins or constituents are intransigent rebukes to a society that seeks to tailor all culture to its own interests.
The apolitical self-regard of Modernist art creates an enironment favourable to the eventual industrial appropriation of the works.
Yet there have been times when this latter process of appropriation has been sufficiently slowed that a semblance of autonomy has been achieved.
The new art was definable only by uncertanities in critical language between 1874 and 1877.
the opposition between the Impressionist and Intransigent art is unresolved in he criticism of Claretie, Chesneau, Burty, Wolff, Silverste, Blemont, Enault, Chaumelin and Mallarme.
even critics who worked the hardest to claim Impressionism for the moderate Republic was strangely compelled to call attention to its Intransigent alter-ego.
Emile Blavet tried to rescue Impressionism from the left, claiming that the new art represented 'the fruitful renovation of the French School, of a principle of art whose results may be considerable'
If the new art , as we have seen , embodied a 'theory of open air', so too did the criticism, often seeming to 'tremble, melt and evaporate' into ideologiacal unease.
The critics on the left providing no more confident than those on the right.
The uncertain art criticism was thus wholly appropriate to the ambiguities of the new art.
Renoir's rejection of a name encouraged critical uncertainity over the new art, thereby prolonging the period during which it remained between ideological antinomies.
Such a stance was considered by Renoir as part of the tradition of 'the Masters'
The success of the new art in evading either academicism or political tendentiousness is thus attributed to the refusal of a proper name and the articulation of a new style.
Romanticism had vested artists with the power symbolically to breach the Enlightenment frissure between subject and object, word or thing.
Manet chose to expose these scissions through an art that called attention to its status as fiction.
Manet did not adopt the Jacobian tradition instead as T.J.Clark has shown in his study on Manet was an avoidance of the explicit signs of politics or class achieved through the blankness of human expression and and odd unreliability of gesture, posture, and physical place.
Manet's art, it may generally be said, elided the oppositions that comprised contemporary ideology: work/leisure, city/country, artifice/authenticity, public/private- in short a whole rhetoric of binaries that seemed to assure the political and class stability.
Manet questioned this stability and did so with a modernist style that compelled conviction.
His paintings revealed an undeniable finish, solidity, composure and simple rationality that signalled a real knowledge.
Impressionist followers of Manet similarly succeded in elidind ideological oppositions while still offering something that could approach knowledge.
The evidence of the new painters success in eliding comforting social oppositions provide the aporias that dominate criticism of the new art, that is, the free space between Impressionist and Intransigent.