Tag: Impressionism

Renoir Art: Two Sisters on the Terrace, 1881

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Renoir Art: Two Sisters an the Terrace, 1881

Two Sisters or On the Terrace is an 1881 oil-on-canvas painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The dimensions of the painting are 100.5 cm × 81 cm. The title Two Sisters (French: Les Deux Sœurs) was given to the painting by Renoir, and the title On the Terrace (French: Sur la terrasse) by its first owner Paul Durand-Ruel.

Renoir worked on the painting on the terrace of the Maison Fournaise, a restaurant located on an island in the Seine in Chatou, the western suburb of Paris. The painting depicts a young woman and her younger sister seated outdoors with a small basket containing balls of wool. Over the railings of the terrace one can see shrubbery and foliage with the River Seine behind it.

In 1880 to 1881, shortly before working on Two Sisters, Renoir worked in this particular location on another well-known painting, Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Jeanne Darlot (1863—1914), a future actress who was 18 years old at the time, was posing as “the elder sister.” It is unknown who posed as the “younger sister,” but it is stated that the models were not actually related.

Renoir began work on the painting in April 1881 and on July 7, 1881, it was bought by the art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, for 1,500 francs. The painting was presented for the first time to the public at the 7th Impressionist exhibition in the spring of 1882. In 1883 it was known to be in the collection of Charles Ephrussi, an art collector and a publisher, but in 1892 the painting was returned again to the collection of the Durand-Ruel family.

In 1925, the painting was sold to Annie S. Coburn from Chicago for $100,000. After her death in 1932 the painting was bequeathed to the Art Institute of Chicago, where it has remained since 1933.

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Impressionism: Directly from Nature with use of broken colors

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Impressionism: Directly from Nature with use of broken colors

Impressionism in painting, late-19th-century French school that was generally characterized by the attempt to depict transitory visual impressions, often painted directly from nature, and by the use of pure, broken color to achieve brilliance and luminosity. It was loosely structured in that many painters were associated with the movement for only brief periods in their careers. Their association often came about more for the purpose of exhibiting their works than from an approach to painting held in common.

The Birth of Impressionism

The movement began with the friendship of four students of the academic painter Marc Gleyre: Monet, Renoir, Sisley, and Bazille. These four met regularly at the Café Guerbois in Paris with Cézanne, Pissarro, and Morisot, and later with Degas, Manet, the critics Duret and Rivière, and the art dealer Durand-Ruel. The painters repudiated academic standards and reacted against the romantics’ emphasis on emotion as subject matter.

They forsook literary and anecdotal subjects and, indeed, rejected the role of imagination in the creation of works of art. Instead they observed nature closely, with a scientific interest in visual phenomena. Although they painted everyday subjects, they avoided the vulgar and ugly, seeking visual realism by extraordinary stylistic means.

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Argenteuil and Impressionism

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Argenteuil and Impressionism

The outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War ( July 18, 1870) found Claude Monet at Le Havre, where he remained as that fateful summer wore on. On September 2 came the German breakthrough at Sedan; Napoleon III capitulated and on September 4 the Third Republic was proclaimed. Leaving Camille and little Jean in Normandy, Monet sailed for England in September. Bazille volunteered for the Zouaves and joined a line regiment in August (he was killed in action at Beaune-la-Rolande on November 28).

Manet, as a confirmed republican, waited for the Empire to collapse and then enlisted (as did Degas) in an artillery unit of the National Guard. Pissarro, living at Louveciennes, found himself in the path of the advancing Germans and fled to England, leaving behind hundreds of his pictures together with many that Monet had stored with him. Torn from their frames and used as floor-mats and aprons by the Prussian soldiery, who turned his house into the regimental butchershop, all were destroyed — an irreparable loss, depriving us of by far the greater part of Pissarro’s pre-1870 output and a substantial part of Monet’s. To these losses, in the case of Monet, must be added the many canvases which he himself ripped to shreds in fits of despair or to prevent their being seized by his creditors.

Things went no better for him in London than in France. The English public showed complete indifference to his work. He submitted some pictures to an exhibition at the Royal Academy, but they were rejected. He had the good luck, however, to run into Daubigny, who introduced him to his own dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, also a refugee in London, who had opened a gallery at 158 Bond Street. This meeting was providential not only for Monet but also for Pissarro, who met Durand-Ruel at the same time. “Without him we’d have starved to death in London,” he wrote later. But in spite of his enthusiasm for their work and his persistence in bringing it to public notice, Durand-Ruel failed to sell a single one of their pictures in England. He nevertheless went on buying canvases from Monet and Pissarro, and thus enabled them to keep afloat.

Monet made several views of the Thames in addition to some studies in Hyde Park in which the figures are very roughly silhouetted against a simplified landscape composed of broad, flat planes of color. Pissarro tells of their visits to the museums and how much they were impressed by the English landscape painters, by Constable and Turner in particular. Monet later denied that he had been influenced by Turner at that time, and indeed it is only in the much later series of fog effects on the Thames ( 1904) that Turner’s influence becomes apparent.

In the summer of 1871 Monet left England for Holland, where he painted some landscapes in which the mighty forms of windmills, outlined against the immensity of the sky above the canals in the foreground, are treated in a free, sparkling style very much like that of his Trouville seascapes of 1870.

Life had gone back to normal in Paris now and artists were returning to their old haunts. The group that had formed around Manet in the late sixties now formed again, but this time it centered on Monet. Even before his military service, as early as 1859, Monet had met Pissarro at the Académie Suisse; after his discharge from the army, at Gleyre’s studio in 1862, he had met Renoir, Bazille and Sisley. Monet thus formed the link between the group at Gleyre’s and the group at the Académie Suisse, where Pissarro had been joined by Cézanne and Guillaumin.

In December 1871 Monet settled at Argenteuil, on the western outskirts of Paris. After a visit to Le Havre in the spring of 1872, he left for Holland, eager to rework a vein that had proved so fruitful in the previous year. It is difficult to distinguish between the pictures made during these two stays in Holland, few of them being dated. Assignable to 1872, however, are those which foreshadow the fully developed technique of his Argenteuil period, those, in other words, in which we find a breaking-up of color into a patchwork of small brushstrokes and a new emphasis on atmospheric vibration.

In the autumn of 1872 Monet returned to Argenteuil where he lived for the next six years, with occasional expeditions to Paris, as is proved by two views of the Boulevard des Capucines in winter. He saw much of Renoir and they often worked together on the Seine banks. Monet’s first river scenes, in 1872-1873, were still built up in separate, unblended strokes and patches of color. A good example is Pleasure Boats which, enclosed in a triple frame with a Sisley and a Pissarro, forms a triptych bequeathed to the Louvre by Monsieur May.

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Claude Monet and The Water Lilies

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Claude Monet and The Water Lilies

As soon as they appeared, the Water Lilies of Claude Monet old age, those hymns to light, plant life and water, incurred the displeasure of both the well-wishers and the detractors of Impressionism. The first were baffled by Monet’s new manner; the second were blind to the new depth of vision these works revealed. Misunderstood and neglected for over thirty years, the Water Lilies are at last receiving the recognition they deserve.

Having had the privilege, from childhood up, of seeing and familiarizing myself with them in the setting at Giverny in which they were created (the only setting, let me add, that can do justice to them), it reflects no particular credit on me to say that personally I have never shared that incomprehension. To see the Water Lilies in the garden studio especially built to house them was to see them in natural, harmonious conjunction with radiant summer days spent in the garden at Giverny beside the pond which inspired them. It was a delight which those who experienced it will never forget.

I cannot deny that, for me at least, the spell is irremediably broken in the Musée de l’Orangerie, in that bleak back room which, designed especially for the Water Lilies in 1925, nevertheless baldly reduces them to a mural decoration — and they are ever so much more than that. The way in which they are encased there, in a long horizontal belt around the concave wall, restricts them to the narrow, perfectly extraneous function of emphasizing the ellipsoidal line of the architecture.

Monet himself contributed to this over-modest setting by approving the whole project at the time and by doing his utmost to adapt his panels to it. To break and diversify the even horizontal flow of the paintings around the room, he sprinkled the foreground with willow fronds suggestive of the decorative style of art nouveau, fashionable around 1900. At the same time they introduce a third dimension which strikes an uncalled-for contrast with the sheer vertical plane of the water surface; the latter, with its rich play of light effects, was theme enough in itself.

The setting, then, in which the Water Lilies have been exhibited to the public in part explains both the eclipse they underwent for over a quarter of a century and the keen revival of interest in them caused by the recent revelation of further Water Lilies hitherto hidden from view in the studio at Giverny. The evolution of taste and ideas in the course of the past halfcentury explains the rest.

This evolution, as far as painting is concerned, began with the dissensions that led to the break-up of the impressionist movement in the eighties. While Monet went on, singlemindedly pursuing the subtlest, most elusive effects and variations of light and atmosphere, Pissarro, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin each branched out in different directions. The Neo-Impressionism of Seurat, with which Pissarro threw in his lot in 1886, was both a logical development of Impressionism and a reaction against it. The systematic, scientific application of the principles which Monet discovered and applied by trial and error signified in effect a tacit condemnation of the intuitive, empirical nature of his art.

As for Renoir, after an uneasy interlude in which he toyed with a harshly linear, Ingresque style, he finally reconciled his concern for form with his love of light, fusing both in an inimitable glorification of volume saturated with color. Cézanne, however, always deferring to his “sensations,” gradually exacted from them not an atmospheric so much as a geological revelation of the visible world. After a fling at Neo-Impressionism, whose narrow harness failed to hold him long in check, Van Gogh hit his stride at Arles, throwing off every constraint in a jubilant, preexpressionist exaltation of color and line. But it was the symbolism of Gauguin which worked the most radical transformation of Impressionism. Gauguin sacrificed the visual aspect of things to the expression, in terms of line and color, of the “idea” they engendered in the mind. He rejected outright the whole battery of naturalistic effects calculated to suggest space and light, and adopted flat colors and heavy contour lines.

The upshot of these powerfully diverging currents was Fauvism, which abandoned every semblance of fidelity to outward appearances in favor of a rapturous glorification of color — but color handled more plastically than it was by the slightly later followers of Van Gogh, with their bias toward expressionist distortion. In spite of this reaction, however, Fauvism and Expressionism remained, like Impressionism, essentially dependent on the sensation induced by the object.

This was no longer true of Cubism, which rejected the outer world as it appears to our senses and built up another one out of a select assortment of elements artificially reassembled in the mind. This essentially cerebral art stood at the opposite pole from the essentially sensuous art of Impressionism. No wonder then that the meat of the one was the poison of the other. The rise of Cubism and the era that followed, during which its influence spread and was assimilated, set up a reaction against Impressionism, whose achievement was belittled and whose most characteristic representative, Claude Monet, was disregarded by a whole generation of artists.

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Monet Series of Regattas: Sailboat at Argenteuil

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Monet Series of Regattas: Sailboat at Argenteuil

In the series of Regattas, painted from his boat, slight stylistic differences are discernible from picture to picture. These reveal a rather subtle line of evolution, but a significant one.

Sailboat at Argenteuil ( Bravington Collection), tacking with all sails set across the Seine, represents the next step after Pleasure Boats (May Collection). It is handled like the latter, with the paint swept on broadly in thin coats, but the strokes of the brush are no longer quite so separate and distinct as they are in Pleasure Boats; instead of being juxtaposed and contrasting with each other, planes tend to fuse and intermingle. Regatta in Fine Weather ( Caillebotte Collection, Louvre) marks a further stage.

Reflections on the water are no longer rendered in molten dabs of color, but in straight, horizontal, distinctly separate brushstrokes. These strokes, however, are larger than those in Regatta in Gray Weather (Camondo Collection, Louvre). Here, in order to render choppy water ruffled by the wind, Monet dabbed on his paints in small, flickering touches that convey an effect of movement and agitation, and though motivated by circumstances (i.e. the state of the weather) they nevertheless mark a further step in his increasing concern with effects of atmospheric vibration.

In each of these pictures he never failed to adapt his technique to the nature of the scene before him. Sky, water, trees, sails, houses, no two of these things are treated in the same way. The brushstroke is adjusted in every case to the visual impression, which in turn depends not only on light conditions but on the form and texture of the object or element in question.

During the summer Monet was so completely engrossed in nautical subjects that he apparently found time for only one rural landscape: Springtime ( Berlin), a masterpiece of sunny airiness, painted with the utmost simplicity in flat colors. At the approach of winter his thoughts turned again to the open country and he made some snowscapes, mostly handled in thin coats of modulated color (for example, Train in the Snow, Musée Marmottan, Paris, dated 1875), sometimes in a thick impasto, but always smoothly brushed on, without any division of color.

As a result of the severe winters of the early seventies (borne out by his snowscapes), Monet felt the pinch more than ever and, to make things worse, there seemed to be no prospect of better times ahead, for the “incomprehensible” novelty of his painting only widened the breach between him and the public. With his stout physique Monet could bear the hardships of cold and hunger, but his wife’s frail health was permanently injured. His painter friends were Monet’s only resource, but the whole group was faring badly.

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All About The French Impressionism

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All About The French Impressionism

Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s. The name of the style is derived from the title of a Claude Monet work, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), which provoked the critic Louis Leroy to coin the term in a satiric review published in the Parisian newspaper Le Charivari.

Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes; open composition; emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time); common, ordinary subject matter; the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience; and unusual visual angles. The development of Impressionism in the visual arts was soon followed by analogous styles in other media which became known as Impressionist music and Impressionist literature.

The term “Impressionism” can also be used to describe art created in this style, but not during the late 19th century.

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Impressionism: Reading Woman circa 1900

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Impressionism: Reading Woman circa 1900

Always the Same Draperies and the Same Virgins!

After such a profession of faith as this, how is it possible to contend that Renoir was heedless or disdainful of all elevated thought? With Cézanne and Van Gogh he knew full well what our modern world lacks, — a sense of the Divine.

To this matter he returns in the preface to Cennino Cennini’s Livre de l’Art, where he explains that the general value of ancient art resides in «that something which has disappeared — religious feeling, the most fruitful source of their inspiration (i. e., — Cennini’s contemporaries). It is that which gives all their works that character of nobility and candour, at one and the same time, and in which we find so much charm…

To sum up everything,» he continues, «there then existed between men and the environment in which they moved a harmony born of a common belief… After this one can understand the cause of the general progress in art and of its unity wherever a lofty religious conception holds sway… So much so that one may almost say that, when these fundamental principles are lacking, Art cannot exist».

Do not these words justify us in saying that the crisis through which Renoir passed was not merely a technical one, but spiritual, philosophical, anti-rationalist, — a crisis of the soul? His desire was «to be touched by grace», so that his mind might receive the god which would animate it. But Renoir did not lose himself on those heights. Raphael’s Venus, — she «who comes to supplicate Jupiter», made the same impression upon him as «a good fat gossip on her way back to the kitchen», and he was quite of Stendhal’s opinion, that Raphael’s women are commonplace and heavy.

However, when in Florence, La Vierge à la Chaise caused him deep emotion. «I went to see this picture intending to have a good laugh,» he related to M. Vollard. «But behold! I found myself in front of the most free, most solid, most marvellously simple and living piece of painting it is possible to imagine, — a picture with arms and legs of real flesh, and how touching an expression of maternal tenderness! »

Renoir became somewhat rapidly tired with the painting of the Renaissance. « Always the same draperies and the same Virgins! » And he proceeded to Naples for a rest. The art of Pompeii and that of the Egyptians delighted him. He found there Corot’s « simplicity of work » and even his silver-grey colour. Face to face with that art he came to understand form and volume; there was no atmosphere, no subtle play of light, no expression of matter; form was wholly created by the relationship between the tones, whilst volume was suggested by modelling and passing touches.

He also took a lesson in pictorial technique which a chance discovery soon developed. For a time it was the technique of fresco-painting which above all occupied his thoughts, and he would no longer work save with red and yellow ochre, green and black terra. On returning to France he painted, after that fashion, at the house of M. Bérard, at Wargemont, two decorations inspired by hunting scenes. Then, one day, in 1883, he chanced to discover in a book-box on the quays a copy of the Traité de la Peinture de Cennino Cennini, mis en lumière pour la première fois avec des notes par le Chev. J. Tamboni. Traduit par V. M., Paris et Lille, 1858. The translator was one of Ingres’ pupils — Victor Mottez.

Thirty years later, at the request of this painter’s son, Renoir consented to write a preface to a new edition of the book. When in Rome, Renoir had become greatly interested in the technique of fresco-painting in oils. Now, Cennino Cennini’s book revealed to him the methods of the painters of the XVth century, — methods which Mottez had put into practice at Saint-Sulpice, Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, and Saint-Séverin. So we see Renoir launched in the direction of pictorial science, and, a passionate beginner in the painting of frescoes, he disdained oils, ignoring, as he himself related later, « the elementary truth that oil-painting must be done with oil».

Like Delacroix and Cézanne, he became anxious as regards the preservation of his materials and sought to prevent their turning black. Doubtless he foresaw that future deficiency in the case of impressionism. The hatred which suddenly took possession of him against impressionism was largely due to its ephemeral character. « The palette of the painters of to-day, » he said, « has remained the same as that of the painters of Pompeii, via Poussin, Corot, and Cézanne, — I mean to say that it has not become enriched… Happy ancients! » he exclaimed on another occasion, — « since they knew the use of only ochres and browns. »

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Young Girls on the River Bank by Renoir

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Young Girls on the River Bank by Renoir

young girls on the river bank, renoir, renoir artworks, pierre auguste renoir, french art, impressionism, french impressionism, figurative art, decorative art prints

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Renoir as a Portrait Painter

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Renoir as a Portrait Painte

The last Man died, as it were, with the XVIIIth century; the Individual strove to subsist in Romanticism; and Impressionism appeared to be seized with a desire to give him his quietus, -preceded and aided by Caricature, supported clandestinely by the dissolving action of such pitiless observers as Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec, who set forth man’s defects and vices. Man, in Manet’s eyes, was but an excuse for showing his wonderful skill as a painter.

In the case of Monet and Pissarro and Sisley, he was of the value of a tree-trunk, or a boat on the Seine; he played his little inglorious part as a mere touch of colour in the diffuse whole of a landscape. Nature became void of humanity, — and vegetation took on an air of ennui at being without a master and without a goal. Renoir was the only real impressionist ( Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec being of that school only through a spirit of comradeship) who kept in contact with humanity.

More than that: he interested himself in various types of humanity. The humanity of the people and that of the middle-classes. Le Cabaret de Mère Anthony, the scenes depicted at La Grenouillère, Le Moulin de la Galette, Mme Charpentier et ses Enfants, the behaviour of men in town and country, — all these, from a certain point of view, are human documents; and if these pictures, after some catastrophe, were the only remaining vestiges of society, they would suffice to reconstitute an epoch. They were of that period when Renoir was in the midst of and participating in its social life, and very naturally he came to examine his fellow-citizens very closely.

Throughout his life — and in response to his attitude of the moment — he depicted them under different aspects. He regarded the human being in his relation to nature; he examined him in his relation to his fellow-men: first of all the alliance between man and woman, then man as he is among other men, again when he is with his family, or in a restricted, intimate circle. And he was to end by seeing him merely as a creature in the midst of creation as a whole.

One may say that there is not a work by Renoir which shows indifference towards man. Whereas Pissarro, for example, effaces all trace of man, even to the very fruit of his work, Renoir, on the other hand, always reminds us of his presence: the landscape is a framework for his pleasure and his revels, an accompaniment to the beauty of his form, or an opportunity for him to bury himself amidst nature’s charms.

The principal personage in Renoir’s pictures is never the Seine, or the grass; it is the boating-man standing on the bridge facing the river and the sails, or swiftly sculling on the water; we see the dancer, or the spectator; we see friend talking with friend. During the whole of Renoir’s impressionist period we find this feeling of man’s domination over nature or woman, but at the same time we note that of love: the woman and the child who make their radiant progress amidst the field of weeds and flowers are in unison with the glory of the humble plants of the meadows.

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Impressionism: Deux Soeurs Art Print by Renoir

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Impressionism: Deux Soeurs Art Print by Renoir

French painter; born in Limoges; died at Cagnes in the south of France. Renoir’s beginnings differed very little from those of the many who followed conventional art courses, except that he showed great facility and also some inclination to use color more freely than his teachers liked. None of his early drawings have been preserved; he may have destroyed them, just as he destroyed certain canvases as soon as he had liberated himself from the academic yoke.

He had no sooner left the Ecole des Beaux-Arts than he turned toward Courbet, whose forceful execution and strong contrasts, whose heavy volumes and simplified drawing, offered entirely new aspects. It was only after having worked for some time as a follower of Courbet, after having tested various modes of expression, that he discovered the subtle qualities of Delacroix. By then he had experience enough to realize that these qualities truly corresponded to his own sensibility. Delacroix thus became his master by preference, chosen not by chance but from the conviction of deep affinities.

What attracted Renoir in Delacroix’s art was above all his color, his technique and -inseparable from them — the fierce vibrations of his drawing. Nothing could have better prepared him for the new approach to nature upon which he engaged, together with his friend Monet, and which was to lead eventually to impressionism. The farther he advanced toward an instantaneous retention of sensations, the more he abandoned whatever influence the principles of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts might have had upon him, the less he was preoccupied with linear expression.

For the first time in the history of art, perhaps, Monet and his group insisted on a pursuit of impressions in so direct a way that preliminary sketches became unnecessary, in fact, would have appeared a negation of their efforts. More than Delacroix had ever done, the impressionists considered drawing dependent upon color and represented their perceptions in a dense tissue of color touches never divided by incisive strokes. There was no need for linear demarcation, since form could be suggested in its fullness through color modulation alone. Nature observed on the spot offered a minimum of lines, and even these appeared unstable, broken by reverberations of their surroundings, pulverized by ever changing plays of light.

Baudelaire had already stated that nature did not offer immutable contours. “A good drawing,” he had written, “is not a hard, cruel, despotic, motionless line enclosing a form like a straitjacket. Drawing should be like nature, living and restless. Simplification in drawing is a monstrosity; nature shows us an endless series of curved, fleeting, broken lines, according to an unerring law of generation, in which parallels are always undefined and meandering, and concaves and convexes correspond to and pursue each other.”

The impressionists went further: they denied that lines existed in nature. They refused to see a contour where an object presented its profile; they were preoccupied with the appearance of its form under specific conditions. They declined to isolate it from its surroundings; they professed no interest in it, except as part of a whole, as a receptacle of iridescence. They perceived colored masses and studied their interactions; they ignored the limits of forms and planes, since light ignores them and weaves them together.

No wonder, then, that Monet and Sisley, for instance, hardly ever made drawings. Renoir, the impressionist, seems also to have drawn very little. He seldom used his pencil but occasionally worked with pastel crayons which permitted him to obtain results similar to his paintings. From time to time he drew in pen and ink, endeavoring to achieve a texture of vibrant hatchings. What preoccupied him was not the arabesque of a contour but the creation of mellow forms through the delicate interplay of light and shadows.

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