Realism and Impressionism Art History
Victorians have for a long time been thought to been super-prudes and yet in Art History no other paintings rival Nymphs and Satyrs (1873) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe (1863) by Edouard Manet. Bouguereau’s painting features a group of nude nymphs leading a satyr to a pool. Other nymphs can be seen beckoning their compatriots a distance away from where the scene takes place. Manet’s painting, on the other hand, features the depiction of a woman who is completely nude as she casually lunches with two men who seem not interested in her. They are dressed as dandies while engaging in a conversation while the nude woman stares directly at the paintings viewer together a woman bathing in the background. From Manet’s painting, it is easy for a trained eye to notice the assortment of overlapping images that cannot be absorbed simultaneously. These images have to be put together later in the viewers mind. A characteristic of realism is depicted when the painter decides to destroy its perspective with the addition of a woman in the background. From the painting, it is safe to assume that she may be about 20 to 25 feet away but painting her in her real size makes her appear larger than she should have been.
The presence of a nude woman sitting in the company of two men in the middle of a picnic setting was certainly immediately translated as being immoral during that era. The nude and party naked woman in the painting suddenly draws the attention of many viewers as it delves deep into the touchy issue of sex while presenting it. Art critics also took issue with Manet’s use of a relatively new perspective; hit-and-miss. In the painting, the perspective is echoed by the flat lighting that permeates the painting making the nude limbs of the woman appear two dimensional. The painting was said to have no al dente bounce or the slightest bit of liveliness due to the lack of modeling that can be seen in the painting(Gurney 12). Critics thus found his type of art expression rather amateurish and opting for other “talented” artist such as Bouguereau. Critics praise Bouguereau’s work because, unlike Manet, he depicts the scene in his painting as occurring in a far-off dreamy mythological realm where the clothing and all aspects surrounding it could be optional. The Nymphs and Satyr painting is Bouguereau’s attempt at illusionism where the viewer is able to see the mythical scene presented in perfect clarity.
Impressionism, as an art movement started in the 19th Century in France with the impressionists being a group, made up of artists that were renowned for painting techniques that were quite innovative. The approach centered on using color as most of them embrace the Color Theory while searching for the relationship that existed between light and color in nature. These artists abandoned all-together the conventional idea that suggested that an object’s shadow was obtained from its shadow with an addition of brown and black colors (Gunderson 4). In contrast, their style was more focused on enriching the colors used in a painting as they were of the idea dashes of an object’s color could be used to break its shadow. Additionally, they also sought to accurately capture the weather and atmosphere at a given time of the day while having the landscape as a backdrop. The advent of photography benefited this practice greatly as they did not have to paint realistically. Paintings had been use before as a store for memory. Photography was now able to push it to its potential by finally creating what the artist had been tirelessly trying to depict. Moreover, Japanese Ukiyo-e prints that were popular during that time in France also influenced the impressionists. It was the asymmetrical arrangements that were put side to side with large areas of flat color that interested the impressionist as they could now use this format to develop ideas about color (Boscaro, et al. 133). Pont Neuf, Paris by Hippolyte Jouvin contains landscapes with a freshness and vigor that resonates with aspects of impressionism. His impeccable transcription of sunlight and its effect is seen in the painting creating a panorama that is later clarified by the gathering crowd.