Read CHAPTER XI - IMPRESSIONISM of Promenades of an Impressionist, free online book, by James Huneker, on


The impressionists claim as their common ancestors Claude Lorraine, Watteau, Turner, Monticelli.  Watteau, Latour, Largilliere, Fragonard, Saint-Aubin, Moreau, and Eisen are their sponsors in the matters of design, subject, realism, study of life, new conceptions of beauty and portraiture.  Mythology, allegory, historic themes, the neo-Greek and the academic are under the ban above all, the so-called “grand style.”  Impressionism has actually elevated genre painting to the position occupied by those vast, empty, pompous, frigid, smoky, classic pieces of the early nineteenth century.  However, it must not be forgotten that modern impressionism is only a new technique, a new method of execution we say new, though that is not exactly the case.  The home of impressionism is in the East; it may be found in the vivid patterns woven in Persia or in old Japan.  In its latest avatar it is the expression of contemporaneous reality.  Therein lies its true power.  The artist who turns his face only to the past his work will never be anything but an echo.  To depict the faces and things and pen the manners of the present is the task of great painters and novelists.  Actualists alone count in the future.  The mills of the antique grind swiftly like the rich, they will be always with us but they only grind out imitations; and from pseudo-classic marbles and pseudo-"beautiful” pictures may Beelzebub, the Lord of Flies, deliver us.

That able and sympathetic writer D.S.  MacColl has tersely summed up in his Vision of the Century the difference between the old and new manner of seeing things.  “The old vision had beaten out three separate acts the determination of the edges and limits of things, the shadings and the modellings of the spaces in between with black and white, and the tintings of those spaces with their local colour.  The new vision that had been growing up among the landscape painters simplifies as well as complicates the old.  For purposes of analysis it sees the world as a mosaic of patches of colour, such and such a hue, such and such a tone, such and such a shape...  The new analysis looked first for colour and for a different colour in each patch of shade or light.  The old painting followed the old vision by its three processes of drawing the contours, modelling the chiaroscura in dead colour, and finally in colouring this black-and-white preparation.  The new analysis left the contours to be determined by the junction, more or less fused, of the colour patches, instead of rigidly defining them as they are known to be defined when seen near at hand or felt...  ’Local colour’ in light or shade becomes different not only in tone but in hue.”

To the layman who asked, “What is impressionism?” Mauclair has given the most succinct answer in his book L’Impressionisme:  “In nature,” he declares, “no colour exists by itself.  The colouring of the object is pure illusion; the only creative source of colour is the sunlight, which envelops all things and reveals them, according to the hours, with infinite modifications...  The idea of distance, of perspective, of volume is given us by darker or lighter colours; this is the sense of values; a value is the degree of light or dark intensity which permits our eyes to comprehend that one object is further or nearer than another.  And as painting is not and cannot be the imitation of nature, but merely her artificial interpretation, since it has only at its disposal two out of three dimensions, the values are the only means that remain for expressing depth on a flat surface.  Colour is therefore the procreatrix of design...  Colours vary with the intensity of light...  Local colour is an error; a leaf is not green, a tree trunk is not brown...  According to the time of day, i. e., according to the greater or smaller inclination of the rays (scientifically called the angle of incidence), the green of the leaf and the brown of the tree are modified...  The composition of the atmosphere... is the real subject of the picture...  Shadow is not absence of light, but light of a different quality and of a different value.  Shadow is not part of the landscape where light ceases, but where it is subordinated to a light which appears to us more intense.  In the shadow the rays of the spectrum vibrate with a different speed.  Painting should therefore try to discover here, as in the light parts, the play of the atoms of solar light, instead of representing shadows with ready-made tones composed of bitumen and black...  In a picture representing an interior the source of light [windows] may not be indicated; the light circulating, circling around the picture, will then be composed of the reflections of rays whose source is invisible, and all the objects, acting as mirrors for these reflections, will consequently influence each other.  Their colours will affect each other even if the surfaces be dull.  A red vase placed upon a blue carpet will lead to a very subtle but mathematically exact exchange between this blue and this red; and this exchange of luminous waves will create between the two colours a tone of reflections composed of both.  These composite reflections will form a scale of tones complementary of the two principal colours.

“The painter will have to paint with only the seven colours of the solar spectrum and discard all the others;... he will, furthermore, instead of composing mixtures on his palette, place upon his canvas touches of none but the seven colours juxtaposed [Claude Monet has added black and white] and leave the individual rays of each of these colours to blend at a certain distance, so as to act like sunlight upon the eye of the beholder.”  This is called dissociation of tones; and here is a new convention; why banish all save the spectrum?  We paint nature, not the solar spectrum.

Claude Monet has been thus far the most successful practitioner of impressionism; this by reason of his extraordinary analytical power of vision and native genius rather than the researches of Helmholtz, Chevreul, and Rood.  They gave him his scientific formulas after he had worked out the problems.  He studied Turner in London, 1870; then his manner changed.  He had been a devoted pupil of Eugene Boudin and could paint the discreet, pearly gray seascapes of his master.  But Turner and Watteau and Monticelli modified his style, changed his way of envisaging the landscape.  Not Edouard Manet but Claude Monet was the initiator of the impressionistic movement in France, and after witnessing the rout and confusion that followed in its wake one is tempted to misquote Nietzsche (who said that the first and only Christian died on the cross) and boldly assert that there has been but one impressionist; his name, Monet.  “He has arrived at painting by means of the infinitely varied juxtaposition of a quantity of colour spots which dissociate the tones of the spectrum and draw the forms of objects through the arabesque of their vibrations.”  How his landscapes shimmer with the heat of a summer day!  Truly, you can say of these pictures that “the dawn comes up like thunder.”  How his fogs, wet and clinging, seem to be the first real fogs that ever made misty a canvas!  What hot July nights, with few large stars, has Monet not painted!  His series of hayricks, cathedrals, the Thames are precious notations of contemporary life; they state facts in terms of exquisite artistic value; they resume an epoch.  It is therefore no surprise to learn that in 1874 Monet gave the name (so variously abused) to the entire movement when he exhibited a water piece on the Boulevard des Capucines entitled Impression:  Soleil Levant.  That title became a catchword usually employed in a derisive manner.  Monet earlier had resented the intrusion of a man with a name so like his, but succumbed to the influence of Monet.  One thing can no longer be controverted Claude Monet is the greatest landscape and marine painter of the second half of the last century.  Perhaps time may alter this limit clause.

What Turgenieff most condemned in his great contemporary, Dostoievsky if the gentle Russian giant ever condemned any one was Feodor Mikhailovitch’s taste for “psychological mole runs”; an inveterate burrowing into the dark places of humanity’s soul.  Now, if there is a dark spot in a highly lighted subject it is the question, Who was the first impressionist?  According to Charles de Kay, Whistler once told him that he, James the Butterfly, began the movement; which is a capital and characteristic anecdote, especially if one recalls Whistler’s boast made to a young etcher as to the initiative of Corot.  Whistler practically said:  “Before Corot was, I am!” And he adduced certain canvases painted with the misty-edged trees long before but why continue?  Whistler didn’t start Corot apart from the chronological difficulties in the way any more than Courbet and Manet started Whistler; yet both these painters played important roles in the American master’s art.  So let us accept Mauclair’s dictum as to Claude Monet’s priority in the field of impressionism.  Certainly he attained his marked style before he met Manet.  Later he modified his own paint to show his sympathy with the new school.  Monet went to Watteau, Constable, Monticelli for his ideas, and in London, about 1870, he studied Turner with an interest that finally bordered on worship.  And why not?  In Turner, at the National Gallery, you may find the principles of impressionism carried to extravagant lengths, and years before Monet.  Consider Rain, Steam and Speed the Great Western Railway, that vision of a locomotive dashing across a bridge in chromatic chaos.  Or the Sea Piece in the James Orrock collection a welter of crosshatchings in variegated hues wherein any school of impressionism from Watteau’s Embarkment to Monet’s latest manner or the pointillisme of Signac and Seurat may be recognised.  And there is a water-colour of Turner’s in the National Gallery called Honfleur, which has anticipated many traits of Boudin and the Manet we know when he had not forgotten Eugene Boudin’s influence.

Let us enjoy our Monet without too many “mole runs.”  As De Kay pointed out, it was not necessary for Monet to go to London to see Constables.  In the Louvre he could gaze upon them at leisure, also upon Bonington; not to mention the Venetians and such a Dutchman as Vermeer.  It is therefore doubly interesting to study the Monets at Durand-Ruel’s.  There are twenty-seven, and they range as far back as 1872, Promenade a Trouville, and come down to the Charing Cross Bridge, 1904, and the two Waterloo Bridge effects, 1903.  It is a wide range in sentiment and technique.  The Mills in Holland of 1874 is as cool and composed as Boudin.  Sincerity and beauty are in the picture for we do not agree with those who see in Monet only an unemotional recorder of variations in light and tone.  He can compose a background as well as any of his contemporaries, and an important fact is overlooked when Monet is jumbled indiscriminately with a lot of inferior men.  Monet knew how to draw before he handled pigment.  Some lansdcape painters do not; many impressionists trust to God and their palette-knife; so the big men are sufferers.  Monet, it may be noted, essayed many keys; his compositions are not nearly so monotonous as has been asserted.  What does often exhaust the optic nerve is the violent impinging thereon of his lights.  He has an eagle eye, we have not.  Wagner had the faculty of attention developed to such an extraordinary pitch that with our more normal and weaker nerves he soon exhausts us in his flights.  Too much Monet is like too much Wagner or too much sunshine.

The breezy effect with the poplars painted flat is an example very unlike Monet.  The church of Varengeville at Dieppe (1880) is a classic specimen; so is the Pourville beach (1882).  What delicate greens in the Spring (1885)!  What fine distance, an ocean view, in the Pourville picture!  Or, if you care for subdued harmonies, there is the ice floe at Vetheuil (1881).

The London pictures tell of the older artist not so vigorous, a vein of tenderness beginning to show instead of his youthful blazing optimism.  Claude Monet must have had a happy life he is still a robust man painting daily in the fields, leading the glorious life of a landscapist, one of the few romantic professions in this prosaic age.  Not so vain, so irritable as either Manet or Whistler, Monet’s nerves have never prompted him to extravagances.  Backbiters declare that Monet is suffering from an optical degeneration poor, overworked word!  Monet sees better, sees more keenly than his fellow-men.  What a misfortune!  Ibsen and Wagner suffered, too, from superior brains.  If Monet ever suffered seriously from a danger to his art it was success.  He was abused in the beginning, but not as severely as Manet.  But success perched on Monet’s palette.  His pictures never seem to suggest any time but high noon, in spirit, at least.  And he is never sad.  Yet, is there anything sadder under the sun than a soul incapable of sadness?

In his very valuable contribution to the history of the cause, Theodore Duret, the biographer and friend of Whistler and Manet has in his Les Peintres Impressionistes held the scales very much in favour of Manet’s priority in the field over Monet.  It is true that in 1863 Manet had drawn upon his head the thunderous wrath of Paris by exhibiting his Dejeuner sur l’Herbe and Olympe by no means a representative effort of the painter’s genius, despite its diabolic cleverness. (It reveals a profound study of Titian, Cranach, and Goya.) But his vision was in reality synthetic, not analytic; he was a primitive; he belongs to the family of Velasquez, Ribera, Goya.  He studied Hals and with what glorious results in Le Bon Bock!  He manipulated paint like an “old master” and did astounding things with the higher tones of the colour scale.  He was not an impressionist until he met Monet.  Then in audacity he outstripped his associates.  Discouraged by critical attacks, his courage had been revived by Charles Baudelaire, who fought for Richard Wagner as well as for Poe and Manet.  To the painter the poet scornfully wrote:  “You complain about attacks?  But are you the first to endure them?  Have you more genius than Chateaubriand and Wagner?  They were not killed by derision.  And in order not to make you too proud, I must tell you that they are models, each in his own way, and in a very rich world, while you are only the first in the decrepitude of your art.”  Sinister and disquieting that last phrase, and for those who see in impressionism the decadence of painting (because of the predominance given to the parts over the whole) it is a phrase prophetic.

Manet is a classic.  His genuine power technically speaking lies in the broad, sabre-like strokes of his brush and not in the niggling taches of the impressionists of which the reuctio ad absurdum is pointillisme.  He lays on his pigments in sweeping slashes and his divisions are large.  His significance for us does not alone reside in his consummate mastery of form and colour, but in his forthright expression of the life that hummed about him.  He is as actual as Hals.  Study that Boy With the Sword at the Metropolitan Museum is there anything superficial about it?  It is Spanish, the Spain of Velasquez, in its beautiful thin, clear, flat painting, its sober handling of values.  The truth is that Manet dearly loved a fight, and being chef d’ecole, he naturally drifted to the impressionists’ camp.  And it is significant that Duret did not give this virile spirit a place in his new volume, confining the estimate of his genius to the preface.  Mauclair, on the contrary, includes Manet’s name in his more comprehensive and more scientific study, as he also includes the name of Edgar Degas Degas, who is a latter-day Ingres, plus colour and a new psychology.

The title of impressionism has been a misleading one.  If Degas is an impressionist, pray what then is Monet?  Pissarro, Sisley, Cezanne are impressionists, and in America there is no impropriety in attaching this handle to the works of Twachtmann, J. Alden Weir, W.L.  Metcalf, Childe Hassam, Robert Henri, Robert Reid, Ernest Lawson, Paul Cornoyer, Colin Campbell Cooper, Prendergast, Luks, and Glackens.  But Manet, Degas!  It would have been a happier invention to have called the 1877 group independents; independent they were, each man pursuing his own rainbow.  We may note an identical confusion in the mind of the public regarding the Barbizon school.  Never was a group composed of such dissimilar spirits.  Yet people talk about Millet and Breton, Corot and Daubigny, Rousseau and Dupre.  They still say Goethe and Schiller, Beethoven and Mozart, Byron and Shelley.  It is the result of mental inertia, this coupling of such widely disparate temperaments.

Nevertheless, divided tones and “screaming” palette do not always a picture make; mediocrity loves to mask itself behind artistic innovations.  For the world at large impressionism spells improvisation an easy-going, slatternly, down-at-the-heel process, facile as well as factitious.  Albert Wolff must have thought these things when he sat for his portrait to Manet.  His surprise was great when the artist demanded as many sittings as would have done the painstaking Bonnat.  Whistler shocked Ruskin when he confessed to having painted a nocturne in two days, but with a lifetime experience in each stroke of the brush.  Whistler was a swift worker, and while he claimed the honour of being the originator of impressionism didn’t he “originate” Velasquez? he really belongs to the preceding generation.  He was impressionistic, if you will, yet not an impressionist.  He was Japanese and Spanish, never Watteau, Monticelli, Turner, or Monet.

MacColl has pointed out the weakness of the scientific side of impressionism.  Its values are strictly aesthetic; attempts to paint on a purely scientific basis have proved both monotonous and ludicrous.  The experiments of the neo-impressionists (the 1885 group), of Signac, Seurat, were not very convincing.  Van Rhysselberge, one of the few painters to-day who practise pointillisme, or the system of dots, is a gifted artist; so is Anquetin.  The feminine group is headed by the name of Berthe Morisot (the wife of Eugene Manet, a brother of Edouard and the great granddaughter of Fragonard), a pupil of Manet, the most individual woman painter that ever lived; and Mary Cassatt, a pupil of Degas, though more closely allied to the open-air school in her methods.  Miss Cassatt possesses a distinguished talent.  As a school impressionism has run down to a thin rill in a waste of sand.  It is more technical than personal, and while it was lucky to have such an exponent as Claude Monet, there is every reason to believe that Monet’s impressionism is largely the result of a peculiar penetrating vision.  He has been imitated, and Maufra and Moret are carrying on his tradition yet there is but one Monet.

We know that the spectral palette is a mild delusion and sometimes a dangerous snare, that impressionism is in the remotest analysis but a new convention supplanting an old.  Painters will never go back to the muddy palette of the past.  The trick has been turned.  The egg of Columbus has been once more stood on end.  Claude Monet has taught us the “innocence of the eye,” has shown us how to paint air that circulates, water that sparkles.  The sun was the centre of the impressionistic attack, the “splendid, silent sun.”  A higher pitch in key colour has been attained, shadows have been endowed with vital hues. (And Leonardo da Vinci, wonderful landscapist, centuries ago wrote learnedly of coloured shadows; every new discovery is only a rediscovery.) The “dim, religious light” of the studio has been banished; the average palette is lighter, is more brilliant.  And Rembrandt is still worshipped; Raphael is still on his pedestal, and the millionaire on the street continues to buy Bouguereau.  The amateur who honestly wishes to purge his vision of encrusted painted prejudices we warn not to go too close to an impressionistic canvas any more than he would go near a red-hot stove or a keg of gunpowder.  And let him forget those toothsome critical terms, decomposition, recomposition.  His eyes, if permitted, will act for themselves; there is no denying that the principles of impressionism soundly applied, especially to landscape, catch the fleeting, many-hued charm of nature.  It is a system of coloured stenography in the hands of a master.  Woe betide the fumbler!


The secret of success is never to be satisfied; that is, never to be satisfied with your work or your success.  And this idea seems to have animated Auguste Renoir during his long, honourable career of painter.  In common with several members of the impressionistic group to which he belonged, he suffered from hunger, neglect, obloquy; but when prosperity did at last appear he did not succumb to the most dangerous enemy that besets the artist.  He fought success as he conquered failure, and his continual dissatisfaction with himself, the true critical spirit, has led him to many fields he has been portraitist, genre painter, landscapist, delineator of nudes, a marine painter and a master of still-life.  This versatility, amazing and incontrovertible, has perhaps clouded the real worth of Renoir for the public.  Even after acknowledging his indubitable gifts, the usual critical doubting Thomas grudgingly remarks that if Renoir could not draw like Degas, paint land and water like Monet or figures like Manet, he was a naturally endowed colourist.  How great a colourist he was may be seen at the Metropolitan Museum, where his big canvas, La Famille Charpentier, is now hung.

Charpentier was the publisher of Zola, Goncourt, Flaubert, and of the newer realists.  He was a man of taste, who cultivated friendships with distinguished artists and writers.  Some disappointment was experienced at the recent public sale of his collection in Paris.  The clou of the sale was undoubtedly the portrait of his wife and two children.  It was sold for the surprising sum of 84,000 francs to M. Durand-Ruel, who acted in behalf of the Metropolitan Museum.  Another canvas by Renoir fetched 14,050 francs.  A sanguine of Puvis de Chavannes brought 2,050 francs, and 4,700 francs was paid for a Cezanne picture.

The Charpentier Family, originally entitled Portrait de Madame Charpentier et Ses Filles, was painted in 1878, first exhibited at the Salon of 1879, and there we saw and admired it.  The passage of the years has tempered the glistening brilliancies and audacious chromatic modulations to a suave harmony that is absolutely fascinating.  The background is Japanese.  Mme. Charpentier is seated on a canopy surrounded by furniture, flowers; under foot a carpet with arabesque designs.  She throws one arm carelessly over some rich stuff; the hand is painted with masterly precision.  The other arm has dropped in her lap.  She is an interesting woman of that fine maternal type so often encountered in real France though not in French fiction, alas!  Her gaze is upon her children, two adorable little girls.  A superb dog, a St. Bernard, with head resting on paws, looks at you with watchful eyes.  One of the girls sits upon his shaggy hide.  The mother is in black, a mellow reception robe, tulle and lace.  White and blue are the contrasting tones of the girls the blue is tender.  A chair is at the side of a lacquer table, upon which are flowers.  Renoir flowers, dewy, blushing.  You exclaim:  “How charming!” It is normal French painting, not the painting of the schools with their false ideal of pseudo-Greek beauty, but the intimate, clear, refined, and logical style of a man who does not possess the genius of Manet, Degas, or Monet, but is nevertheless an artist of copiousness, charm, and originality.  Charm; yes, that is the word.  There is a voluptuous magnetism in his colour that draws you to him whether you approve of his capricious designs or not.  The museum paid $18,480 for the Charpentier portrait, and in 1877, after an exposition in the rue Le Peletier, sixteen of his paintings, many of them masterpieces, netted the mortifying sum of 2,005 francs.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was born at Limoges, February 25, 1840.  His father was a poor tailor with five children who went to Paris hoping to better his condition.  At the age of twelve the boy was painting on porcelain his father had picked up some rudiments of the art at Limoges.  Auguste did so well, displayed such energy and taste, that he soon fell to decorating blinds, and saved, in the course of four years, enough money to enable him to enter the atelier of Gleyre.  There he met Sisley, Bazille afterward shot in the Franco-Prussian war and Claude Monet.  They became friends and later allies in the conflict with the Parisian picture public.  Renoir made his first offering to the Salon in 1863.  It was refused.  It was a romantic bit a nude lady reclining on a bed listening to the plucked music of a guitar.  It seems that the guitarist, and not the lady, was the cause of offence.  It is a convention that a thousand living beings may look at an undressed female in a picture, but no painted man may be allowed to occupy with her the same apartment.  In 1864 Renoir tried again after all, the Salon, like our own academy, is a market-place and was admitted.  He sent in an Esmeralda dancing.  Both these canvases were destroyed by the painter when he began to use his eyes.  In 1868 his Lise betrayed direct observation of nature, influenced by Courbet.  Until 1873 he sent pictures to the Salon; that year he was shut out with considerable unanimity, for his offering happened to be an Algerian subject, a Parisian woman dressed in Oriental costume, and horrors! the shadows were coloured.  He was become an impressionist.  He had listened, or rather looked at the baleful pyrotechnics of Monet, and so he joined the secessionists, though not disdaining to contribute annually to the Salon.  In 1874 his L’allee Cavaliere au Bois de Boulogne was rejected, an act that was evidently inspired by a desire to sacrifice Renoir because of the artistic “crimes” of Edouard Manet.  Otherwise how explain why this easily comprehended composition, with its attractive figures, daring hues, and brilliant technique, came to have the door of the Salon closed upon it?

The historic exposition at Nadar’s photographic studio, on the Boulevard des Capucines, of the impressionists, saw Renoir in company with Monet, Sisley, and the others.  His La Danseuse and La Loge were received with laughter by the discerning critics.  Wasn’t this the exhibition of which Albert Wolff wrote that some lunatics were showing their wares, which they called pictures, etc.? (No, it was in 1875.) From 1868 to 1877 Renoir closely studied nature and his landscapes took on those violet tones which gave him the nickname of Monsieur Violette.  Previously he had employed the usual clear green with the yellow touches in the shadows of conventional paysagistes.  But Pissarro, Monet, Sisley, and Renoir had discovered each for himself that the light and shade in the open air vary according to the hours, the seasons, the atmospheric conditions.  Monet and Pissarro in painting snow and frost effects under the sun did not hesitate to put blue tones in the shadows.  Sisley was fond of rose tones, Renoir saw violet in the shadows.  He enraged his spectators quite as much as did Monet with his purple turkeys.  His striking Avant bain was sold for one hundred and forty francs in 1875.  Any one who has been lucky enough to see it at Durand-Ruel’s will cry out at the stupidity which did not recognise a masterly bit of painting with its glowing, nacreous flesh tints, its admirable modelling, its pervading air of vitality.  Renoir was never a difficult painter; that is, in the sense of Monet or Manet or Gauguin.  He offended the eyes of 1875, no doubt, but there was in him during his first period much of Boucher; his female nudes are, as Camille Mauclair writes, of the eighteenth century; his technique is Boucher-like:  “fat and sleek paint of soft brilliancy laid on with the palette-knife with precise strokes around the principal values; pink and ivory tints relieved by strong blues similar to those of enamels; the light distributed everywhere and almost excluding the opposition of the shadows; vivacious attitudes and decorative convention.”

Vivacious, happy, lyrical, Renoir’s work has thus far shown no hint of the bitter psychology of Edgar Degas.  His nudes are pagan, child women full of life’s joy, animal, sinuous, unreasoning.  His genre tableaux are personal enough, though in the most commonplace themes, such as Dejeuner and The Box both have been exhibited in New York the luminous envelope, the gorgeous riot of opposed tones, the delicious dissonances literally transfigure the themes.  In his second manner his affinities to Claude Monet and impressionism are more marked.  His landscapes are more atmospheric, division of tones inevitably practised.  Everything swims in aerial tones.  His portraits, once his only means of subsistence, are the personification of frankness.  The touch is broad, flowing.  Without doubt, as Theodore Duret asserts, Renoir is the first of the impressionistic portrait painters; the first to apply unflinchingly the methods of Manet and Monet to the human face for Manet, while painting in clear tones (what magic there is in his gold!), in portraiture seldom employed the hatchings of colours, except in his landscapes, and only since 1870, when he had come under the influence of Monet’s theories.  Mauclair points out that fifteen years before pointillisme (the system of dots, like eruptive small-pox, instead of the touches of Monet) was invented, Renoir in his portrait of Sisley used the stipplings.  He painted Richard Wagner at Palermo in 1882.  In his third manner an arbitrary classification he combines the two earlier techniques, painting with the palette-knife and in divided tones.  Flowers, barbaric designs for rugs, the fantastic, vibrating waters, these appear among that long and varied series of canvases in which we see Paris enjoying itself at Bougival, dancing on the heights of Montmartre, strolling among the trees at Armenonville; Paris quivering with holiday joys, Paris in outdoor humour and not a discordant or vicious note in all this psychology of love and sport.  The lively man who in shirt sleeves dances with the jolly, plump salesgirl, the sunlight dripping through the vivid green of the tree leaves, lending dazzling edges to profiles, tips of noses, or fingers, is not the sullen ouvrier of Zola or Toulouse-Lautrec nor are the girls kin to Huysmans’s Soeurs Vatard or the “human document” of Degas.  Renoir’s philosophy is not profound; for him life is not a curse or a kiss, as we used to say in the old Swinburne days.  He is a painter of joyous surfaces and he is an incorrigible optimist.  He is also a poet.  The poet of air, sunshine, and beautiful women can we ever forget his Jeanne Samary?  A pantheist, withal a poet and a direct descendant in the line of Watteau, Boucher, Monticelli, with an individual touch of mundane grace and elegance.

Mme. Charpentier it was who cleverly engineered the portrait of herself and children and the portrait of Jeanne Samary into the 1879 Salon.  The authorities did not dare to refuse two such distinguished women.  Renoir’s prospects became brighter.  He married.  He made money.  Patrons began to appear, and in 1904, at the autumn Salon, he was given a special salle, and homage was done him by the young men.  No sweeter gift can come to a French painter than the unbidden admiration of the rising artistic generation.  Renoir appreciated his honours; he had worked laboriously, had known poverty and its attendant bedfellows, and had won the race run in the heat and dust of his younger years.  In 1904, describing the autumn exhibition, I wrote:  “In the Renoir salle a few of the better things of this luscious brush were to be found, paintings of his middle period, that first won him favour.  For example, Sur la Terrasse, with its audacious crimson, like the imperious challenge of a trumpet; La Loge and its gorgeous fabrics; a Baigneuse in a light-green scheme; the quaint head of Jeanne Samary a rival portrait to Besnard’s faun-like Rejane and a lot of Renoir’s later experimentings, as fugitive as music; exploding bouquets of iridescence; swirling panels, depicting scenes from Tannhaeuser; a flower garden composed of buds and blossoms in colour scales that begin at a bass-emerald and ascend to an altitudinous green where green is no longer green but an opaline reverberation.  We know how exquisitely Renoir moulds his female heads, building up, cell by cell, the entire mask.  The simple gestures of daily life have been recorded by Renoir for the past forty years with a fidelity and a vitality that shames the anæmic imaginings and puling pessimisms of his younger contemporaries.  What versatility, what undaunted desire to conquer new problems!  He has in turn painted landscapes as full of distinction as Monet’s.  The nervous vivacity of his brush, his love of rendered surfaces, of melting Boucher-like heads, and of a dazzling Watteau colour synthesis have endeared him to the discriminating.”  He may be deficient in spiritual elevation as were Manet, Monet, and the other Impressionists; but as they were primarily interested in problems of lighting, in painting the sun and driving the old mud gods of academic art from their thrones, it is not strange that the new men became so enamoured of the coloured appearances of life that they left out the ghosts of the ideal (that dusty, battered phrase) and proclaimed themselves rank sun-worshippers.  The generation that succeeded them is endeavouring to restore the balance between unblushing pantheism and the earlier mysticism.  But wherever a Renoir hangs there will be eyes to feast upon his opulent and sonorous colour music.


In the autumn of 1865 Theodore Duret, the Parisian critic, found himself in the city of Madrid after a tour of Portugal on horseback.  A new hotel on the Puerta del Sol was, he wrote in his life of Manet, a veritable haven after roughing it in the adjacent kingdom.  At the mid-day breakfast he ate as if he had never encountered good cooking in his life.  Presently his attention was attracted by the behaviour of a stranger who sat next to him.  The unknown was a Frenchman who abused the food, the service, and the country.  He was so irritable when he noticed Duret enjoying the very plats he had passed that he turned on him and demanded if insult was meant.  The horrible cuisine, he explained, made him sick, and he could not understand the appetite of Duret.  Good-naturedly Duret explained he had just arrived from Portugal and that the breakfast was a veritable feast.  “And I have just arrived from Paris,” he answered, and gave his name, Edouard Manet.  He added that he had been so persecuted that he suspected his neighbour of some evil pleasantry.  The pair became friends, and went to look at the pictures of Velasquez at the Prado.  Fresh from Paris, Manet was still smarting from the attacks made on him after the hanging of his Olympia in the Salon of 1865.  Little wonder his nerves were on edge.  A dozen days later, after he had studied Velasquez, Goya, and El Greco, Manet, in company with Duret, returned to Paris.  It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

About eight years ago Duret’s definitive biography of Manet appeared, Histoire de Edouard Manet et de Son Oeuvre.  No one was better qualified to write of the dead painter than Theodore Duret.  A critic of perspicacity, his enthusiasm was kindled during the birth throes of impressionism and has never been quenched.  Only a few years ago, after a tribute to Whistler, he wrote of Manet in the introduction to his volume on Impressionism, and while no one may deny his estimate, yet through zeal for the name of his dead friend he attributed to him the discoveries of the impressionists.  Manet was their leader; he would have been a leader of men in any art epoch; but he did not invent the fulminating palette of Monet, and, in reality, he joined the insurgents after they had waged their earlier battles.  His “impressionistic” painting, so called, did not date until later; before that he had fought for his own independence, and his method was different from that of Monet, Pissarro, Sisley, Cezanne and the rest.  Nevertheless, because of his notoriety fame is hardly the word he may be fairly called the leader of the school.

As a rule he was not an irascible man, if the unpleasant nature of the attacks upon him is taken into consideration.  With the exception of Richard Wagner and Ibsen, I know of no artist who was vilified during his lifetime as was Manet.  A gentleman, he was the reverse of the bohemian.  Duret writes of him that he was shocked at the attempt to make of him a monster.  He did not desire to become chef d’ecole, nor did he set up as an eccentric.  When he gave his special exhibition his catalogue contained a modest declaration of the right of the artist to his personal vision.  He did not pretend to have created a new school, and he asked the public to judge his work as that of a sincere painter; but even that mild pronunciamento was received with jeers.  The press, with a few exceptions, was against him, and so were nearly all the artists of influence.  Zola’s aggressive articles only made the situation worse.  Who was this Zola but a writer of doubtful taste and sensational style!  The whole crowd of realists, naturalists, and impressionists the Batignolles school was the mocking title given the latter were dumped into the common vat of infamy and critical vitriol poured over them.

The main facts of Manet’s career may be soon disposed of.  His mother was Eugenie Desiree Fournier; she was the goddaughter of Charles Bernadotte, King of Sweden.  Her father, a prefect at Pau, had rendered services to Bernadotte which the latter did not forget.  When she married, in 1831, Auguste Manet, a distinguished judge of the Seine tribunal, Bernadotte made her many valuable presents and a dowry.  Her three sons were Edouard, Eugene, and Gustave.  They inherited from their rich grandfather, Fournier.  Edouard was born at Paris, Rue Bonaparte, January 23, 1832.  His brother Eugene became a doctor of medicine and later married one of the most gifted of women painters, Berthe Morisot, who died in 1895, after winning the praise of the most critical pens in all Europe.  Edouard was intended for the bar, but he threw up his studies and swore he would become a painter.  Then he was sent abroad.  He visited South America and other countries, and kept his eyes wide open, as his sea-pieces proved.  After his mother became a widow he married, in 1863, Susanne Leenhoff, of Delft, Holland.  She was one of the early admirers of Schumann in Paris and played the A minor piano concerto with orchestra there, and, it is said, with success.  She was an admirer of her husband’s genius, and during all the turmoil of his existence she was a friend and counsellor.

The young couple lived with the elder Mme. Manet in the Rue de Saint-Petersbourg, and their weekly reception became a rallying centre for not only les Jeunes, but also for such men as Gambetta, Emile Ollivier, Clemenceau, Antonin Proust, De Banville, Baudelaire, Duranty with whom Manet fought a duel over a trifle Zola, Mallarme, Abbe Hurel, Monet, and the impressionistic group.  Edouard entertained great devotion for his mother.  She saw two of her sons die, Edouard in 1883 (April 30) and Gustave in 1884. (He was an advocate and took Clemenceau’s place as municipal councillor when the latter was elected Deputy.) Mme. Manet died in 1885.  The painter was stricken with locomotor ataxia, brought on by protracted toil, in 1881.  For nearly three years he suffered, and after the amputation of a leg he succumbed.  His obsequies were almost of national significance.  His widow lived until 1906.

Manet et manebit was the motto of the artist.  He lived to paint and he painted much after his paralytic seizure.  He was a brilliant raconteur, and, as Degas said, was at one time as well known in Paris as Garibaldi, red shirt and all.  The truth is, Manet, after being forced with his back to the wall, became the active combatant in the duel with press and public.  He was unhappy if people on the boulevard did not turn to look at him.  “The most notorious painter in Paris” was a description which he finally grew to enjoy.  It may not be denied that he painted several pictures as a direct challenge to the world, but a painter of offensive pictures he never was.  The execrated Picnic, proscribed by the jury of the Salon in 1861, was shown in the Salon des Refuses (in company with works by Bracquemond, Cazin, Fantin-Latour, Harpignies, Jongkind, J.P.  Laurens, Legros, Pissarro, Vollon, Whistler the mildest-mannered crew of pirates that ever attempted to scuttle the bark of art), and a howl arose.  What was this shocking canvas like?  A group of people at a picnic, several nudes among them.  In vain it was pointed out to the modest Parisians (who at the time revelled in the Odalisque of Ingres, in Cabanel, Gerome, Bouguereau, and other delineators of the chaste) that in the Louvre the Concert of Giorgione depicted just such a scene; but the mixture of dressed and undressed was appalling, and Manet became a man marked for vengeance.  Perhaps the exceeding brilliancy of his paint and his unconventional manner of putting it on his canvas had as much to do with the obloquy as his theme.  And then he would paint the life around him instead of producing pastiches of old masters or sickly evocations of an unreal past.

He finished Olympia the year of his marriage, and refused to exhibit it; Baudelaire insisted to the contrary.  It was shown at the Salon of 1865 (where Monet exhibited for the first time) and became the scandal of the day.  Again the painter was bombarded with invectives.  This awful nude, to be sure, was no more unclothed than is Cabanel’s Venus, but the latter is pretty and painted with soap-suds and sentimentality.  The Venus of Titian is not a whit more exposed than the slim, bony, young woman who has just awakened in time to receive a bouquet at the hands of her negress, while a black cat looks on this matutinal proceeding as a matter of course.  The silhouette has the firmness of Holbein; the meagre girl recalls a Cranach.  It is not the greatest of Manet; one could say, despite the bravura of the performances, that the painter was indulging in an ironic joke.  It was a paint pot flung in the face of Paris.  Olympia figured at the 1887 exhibition in the Pavilion Manet.  An American (the late William M. Laffan) tried to buy her.  John Sargent intervened, and a number of the painter’s friends, headed by Claude Monet, subscribed a purse of twenty thousand francs.  In 1890 Monet and Camille Pelletan presented to M. Fallieres, then Minister of Instruction, the picture for the Luxembourg, and in 1907 (January 6), thanks to the prompt action of Clemenceau, one of Manet’s earliest admirers, the hated Olympia was hung in the Louvre.  The admission was a shock, even at that late day when the din of the battle had passed.  When in 1884 there was held at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts a memorial exposition of Manet’s works, Edmond About wrote that the place ought to be fumigated, and Gerome “brandished his little cane” with indignation.  Why all the excitement in official circles?  Only this:  Manet was a great painter, the greatest painter in France during the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Beautiful paint always provokes hatred.  Manet won.  Nothing succeeds like the success which follows death. (Our only fear nowadays is that his imitators won’t die.  Second-rate Manet is as bad as second-rate Bouguereau.) If he began by patterning after Hals, Velasquez, and Goya, he ended quite Edouard Manet; above all, he gave his generation a new vision.  There will be always the battle of methods.  As Mr. MacColl says:  “Painting is continually swaying between the chiaroscuro reading of the world which gives it depth and the colour reading which reduces it to flatness.  Manet takes all that the modern inquisition of shadows will give to strike his compromise near the singing colours of the Japanese mosaic.”

What a wit this Parisian painter possessed!  Duret tells of a passage at arms between Manet and Alfred Stevens at the period when the former’s Le Bon Bock met for a wonder with a favourable reception at the Salon of 1873.  This portrait of the engraver Belot smoking a pipe, his fingers encircling a glass, caused Stevens to remark that the man in the picture “drank the beer of Haarlem.”  The mot nettled Manet, whose admiration for Frans Hals is unmistakably visible in this magnificent portrait.  He waited his chance for revenge, and it came when Stevens exhibited a picture in the Rue Lafitte portraying a young woman of fashion in street dress standing before a portiere which she seems about to push aside in order to enter another room.  Manet studied the composition for a while, and noting a feather duster elaborately painted which lies on the floor beside the lady, exclaimed:  “Tiens! elle a done un rendezvous avec valet de chambre?”