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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Influence of French impressionism on Canadian painting Crooker, Mervyn John Arthur


French Impressionism, the earliest vital and progressive modern art movement, was developed in France between 1870 and 1890. It was soon recognized as revolutionary, and the number of its followers grew as the style developed and became known. Paris, then the art center of the world, attracted many students, among whom were Canadian artists. In 1878 William Brymner sailed for Europe, to return in 1882, the year of the seventh Impressionist Exhibition and the year that J.M. Barnsley and Horatio Walker arrived in Paris. Homer Watson, already an established artist, first travelled in Europe in 1887. A growing facility in the use of color marked the evolution in the art of the nineteenth century. The painters John Constable, and Eugene Delacroix, the scientific color technicians M.E. Chevreul, James Maxwell, Ogden Rood, and Robert Henri, opened up new fields of interest. The progression from late Baroque and early English landscapes to the French experiments with color, culminated in Impressionist landscapes filled with sun and atmosphere. The major Impressionist masters Pissarro, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley concerned themselves with the visual effects of light reflecting from the surfaces of objects. Newly invented pigments supplied their palettes with almost unlimited color, which they applied empirically, searching for the most brilliant effect The decade from 1880 to 1890 marked the period when the established Canadian artists came in contact with French Impressionism. They returned home to teach and to paint, and became the Pre-Impressionist painters in Canada. Their work exhibited an intermediary style corresponding to that of the Pre-Impressionist painters in Europe. A survey of the growing Impressionist tendencies in their art led to the first consistent Impressionist style of Maurice Cullen and Marc Suzor-Côté after 1895. By 1900 the influence of Impressionist color technique had reached all art forms. Impressionism was an historically established style which had fostered other newer art forms, and many artists in Canada painted "Impressionist" pictures. Impressionism continued to be seen in Canadian painting together with Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Art Nouveau, Cubism, Expressionism, and finally Abstraction. The term Abstract Impressionism is applied to some recent paintings to indicate the presence of a style which freed art from formulas by introducing individuality, expression, and color, and then became almost a formula itself.

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