The Official French Academy’s Annual Salon was the epitome of Artistic society. It was considered a high honor to receive an invitation to the event. When an Artists works were displayed at the Salon, it was the symbol of arrival. It is a known fact that critics were not welcoming of the impressionistic style. They reduced the technique to an amateur level and refused to acknowledge the significance of the Art. The opinion was not a one way road as the Impressionists felt stifled by mainstream society. The group that banded together was known as the Anonymous Society of Painters, Engravers and Sculptors. The Anonymous members felt the Meaning of Art was too entwined in the haut monde of Paris. To separate their idealisms from those who were deemed to extort the talents of others, they formed an Exhibit of their own.
The Exhibitions of Impressionism
In 1874, the chatter among the streets spread rumors of the Anonymous Society and their radical intentions. An Artist promoting their works in a separate showing was unheard of beyond the elite Salon. At the helm of this historical moment were the originating Anonymous Artists. Monet, Degas, Pissarro, Renoir and Morisot crafted the first Exhibit that ran from mid-April to mid- May. At this time they were not known as Impressionist Artists just yet. They were referred to as Independents and Intransigents due to their perceived rebellion.
They displayed 165 pieces with the overall inclusion of approximately thirty Artists. Louis Leroy was a renowned critic who wrote for the Le Charivari. As to be expected, his review of the exhibit was meant to mock and disparage the Artists efforts. Focusing on Monet’s famous painting “Impression : Sunrise”, Leroy titled his critical findings “Exhibition of Impressionists”. His synopsis for the show denoted the artists were impersonators due to their own lacking talents.
The first show exceeded expectations in attendance. Some came only to watch what they thought to be a spectacle while others showed genuine interest in the style. The Second Exhibit increased the paintings on display to 250 pieces. Hosting less Artists worked out well with the opportunity to showcase individual styles. The Third show was a success and also marked the official title for the growing Art. Leroy’s attempt to negatively impact the exhibit actually helped create its historical name.
Impressionist Exhibitions continued to grow and change. In 1879, the Fourth Exhibition was the first to move forward without all of the founding Artists. Cezanne, Renoir, Morisot and Sisley were not a part of the show. Despite their absence, the attendance rose to four times of the original first Exhibition. An approximate 15,000 guests arrived throughout the one month long display of works. After a few more shows and the coming and going of Artists, the final Exhibition was scheduled in 1886.
The original artists of the Anonymous group returned for the finale. Not only was Impressionism graciously accepted, it began its next step in the Artistic journey – the Post-Impressionist Era.