The Beginning of Impressionism
Those artists now known as Impressionists were originally refused by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, annual
juried art show, the Salon de Paris, the gold standard of painting in the 19th century. Their paintings were considered to lack mastery of the art and were therefore deemed unworthy of being shown there. Unable to participate as most artists prefer, they grouped together (a group including Boudin, Degas, Cézanne, Guillaumin, Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley) and had their own exhibition. This painting of Le Havre at Dawn was shown at that exhibition. Originally Monet titled it "Marina." However, when Edmond Renoir went to enter it in the catalog of the 1874 exhibition at Nadar’s he asked Monet for a clearer title. Monet said, "Put; Impression, Sunrise."
A few very loyal fans of these artists showed up for the exhibition, but the main body of the crowd was
composed of people who wanted to amuse themselves making comments on what they considered to be very poor examples of painting. The entire exhibition was heavily criticized, as is art at the beginning of any movement. Many disgruntled critics spoke poorly of the exhibition and one said that the artists were simply "painters of mere impressions"1 because of Impression, Sunrise. Thus, as the muckraker describes those people who seek out corruption to expose it, the term impressionist was coined to name these people with their new take on art.
This work of the light on water characterizes Monet’s work throughout his lifetime. In 1896, Zola said, "In Monet’s house, the water is alive, profound, and especially real. It splashes around boats with small streams cutting off greenish white light. It extends to light greenish-blue ponds a wind causing a remaining shiver, it lengthens the masts breaking it reflects their image, it has pale and dull shades that illuminate with acuteness."
To see a demonstration of the effect of the luminance of the sun against the same luminance in the surrounding grey in Impression, Sunrise see WebExhibits' Color Vision and Art.