Titles Can Make All the Difference
Perspectives from The Artist’s Road
Impression, Sunrise 1872 Claude Monet
on the wall of the Musée Marmottan Monet
After our pre-pandemic workshop in Provence, we had the delight of visiting Paris for a few days and most especially, of visiting the Musée Marmottan Monet. It is there that Monet’s iconic painting, Impression, Sunrise, resides. It is always a thrill to see paintings that we’ve studied in books, in person—the colors and brush strokes revealing the artist’s hand and mind in a way that no photographic rendition can convey. And, of course, Impression, Sunrise has more than one story to tell.
It is the most well known of a series of six canvases that Monet painted of his hometown of Le Havre in 1872. It was painted from the window of his hotel room looking over the port. Although the term “Impressionism” had been used by others (Manet and Daubigny, for example), it was Monet’s titling of this painting that sparked the term’s general acceptance to describe the broken brushwork style, and direct, plein air painting method thereafter known as Impressionism. Art critic, Louis Leroy titled his review of the 1874 exhibition of thirty artists and over two hundred paintings, including Impression, Sunrise, “The Exhibition of the Impressionists”.
In an interview, Monet said, “A landscape is only an impression, instantaneous, hence the label they’ve given us—all because of me, for that matter. I’d submitted something done out of my window at Le Havre, sunlight in the mist with a few masts in the foreground jutting up from the ships below. They wanted a title for the catalog; it couldn’t really pass as a view of Le Havre, so I answered: ‘Put down Impression.’ Out of that they got impressionism, and the jokes proliferated….” *
In 1985, Impression, Sunrise was one of nine paintings stolen from the Marmottan. See: Perspectives – It Takes a Thief. After five years of work by the French police, all of the paintings were recovered in Porto-Vecchio, Corsica.
It is moving to view these paintings in person, imagining the hands who painted them, the stir they caused when first exhibited and the places they have been taken. Now safely protected, they are back at the Marmottan, their exquisite home.
*La Revue Illustrée interview with Maurice Guillemot
The story of Impression, Sunrise and the movement it named.
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