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Lesson Plans

Re: Impressionism as a result of the development of photography

From: Larry Seiler (
Date: Sun Apr 16 2000 - 08:16:33 PDT

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    Hhhmmm....don't know if anyone else had a jumble of thoughts go through
    their mind when they saw this title/question. (first of all, a pleasant
    visitation Melanie for asking us!). We know the development of the
    photograph encouraged greater freedom in the painter's craft overall because
    it directly affected the commission. Artists being able less and less to
    find patrons to pay for painting portraits were forced to consider other
    directions where the camera was less capable.

    As a painter myself, (and while the camera may have had some effect over all
    artists) bothers me a bit to suggest Impressionism came about because
    of the camera, as if that were the greatest factor. (It is wonderful a 16
    year old is seeking to put this together, but I gather the premise was made
    first then handed out to the students to prove?).

    As a plein air painter...I am convinced from my readings and from painting
    that it was the invention of the lead tube container for which pigment could
    be stored and carried about with ease versus pig bladders, etc., that
    provided the greatest opportunity for painters to get out of the studio and
    in the field. The lead tube allowed artists to purchase ready-made paints
    rather than have to join academies and learn to make their own paint.
    Available materials made it possible for budding artists to by-pass having
    to be selected as those fortunate few to enter an academy as an apprentice
    and slowly learn the craft under firm discipline.

    The Salons of Paris represented the tradition of academy learning, and
    fearing the traditions to be lost held strict standards of what they would
    consider high art. Their holding power over whose work would be included in
    their annual show versus those artists who's work would not was also a
    determent in the development of the Impressionists as a "group" whom then
    began their own annual show "the Rejects."

    The invention of the portable easel...or pochade- "painter's box" to carry
    these paints was another large contribution.

    That would-be artists might meet and find a community amongst themselves,
    all together experiencing scorn as those that would learn to paint inspite
    of the academies, choosing to let direct observation of nature itself be
    their teacher. This was key.

    The invention of the camera helped the Impressionists in the sense that it
    put the proverbial necessity of the academy training's head on the chopping
    block. It would later help to put the stamp of approval that getting out
    and painting directly from nature wasn't perhaps such a bad idea after all.

    Not having to yield to academy taskmasters and formula allowed for shoddy
    techniques such as applying pure color straight from the tubes to the
    canvas, and for the mixing of paint to happen there. And heh...guess what?
    It worked. The colorists were born.

    Larry Seiler
    Landscape Paintings-
    Professional Plein Air Painters-


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