The term “Impressionism” was not chosen by the artists – rather, it was born from a satirical review written by French art critic Louis Leroy (1812 – 1885) in an article on the inaugural exhibition of the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (‘Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors and Engravers’). Held in the spring of 1874, the exhibition included works from 30 Impressionist artists, and is considered the formal start to the movement. In his review, Leroy poked fun at Monet’s 1872 painting Impression, Sunrise, writing that: “‘A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape.1
Impressionism is often termed the first modern movement in painting, in part because the greater tide of modernization created the conditions which inspired the movement. The industrial revolution and the invention of the railroad suddenly awarded greater leisure time to middle and lower-class Parisians, and a way to travel quickly and inexpensively to the countryside. During this time, circa 1860, four young art students – Monet, Sisley, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Frédéric Bazille – met while studying under French academic artist Charles Gleyre. In their free time, the students began boarding trains bound for remote areas around the city, where they’d set their easels amongst the fields or riverbanks and try their best to capture the fleeting glints of sunlight reflected by water, workers bent to their task or Parisians enjoying a lazy Sunday by the sea.
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