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Posted by Lloyd on March 11, 2011

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The artistic movement known as Neoclassicism arose in France near the middle of the 18th century, in reaction to the preceding aristocratic style and subject matter of Louis XVI’s court. Influenced by archaeological excavations of Rome and Pompeii, Neoclassical artists and writers became inspired by the art of Greece and Rome, declaring it a model of perfection. The leading Neoclassical painter in France was Jacques-Louis David, whose painting “The Oath of the Horatii” was a statement of heroism and patriotic virtue. This painting, with its powerfully believable realism, created a sensation and became a symbol of pre-revolutionary passion. It established a new artistic style that became the official standard in France, influencing all artistic matters for the rest of the century. Expert recommendations Neoclassicism

The onset of the Industrial Revolution transformed the economic and social realities of Western Europe: People moved from the country to the city to work in the new manufacturing factories; inventions proliferated (the steam engine, telegraph, telephone, and new materials like steel and iron); and workers rights and social justice movements flared up. Writers like Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, and Emile Zola turned their attention to observing and describing the social evils and depressing living conditions of the lower classes, using naturalistic detail about the difficult lives of ordinary people. In addition, the advent of photography increased a more literal representation of reality. In this climate, a group of artists — most significantly Gustave Courbet and Honore Daumier — began to reject Neoclassicism’s historical subject matter as artificial and irrelevant to modern times. They declared that art should come out of one’s daily experiences and direct observations, and were more sympathetic to the daily plight of the working class. Not surprisingly, they were met with some resistance: The government censored Daumier’s lithographs, which attacked bourgeois hypocrisy. Expert recommendations Realism

The term Impressionism was coined in 1874 by a critic’s hostile response to Claude Monet’s painting, Impression: Sunrise. The critic felt the painting looked unfinished, simply like a sketch or “impression.” It quickly became a label for all the artists in the first Impressionist Exhibition in Paris (April 1874), as well as the seven later exhibits in Paris between 1874-1886. The Impressionist artists sought a new and more truthful way to express their visual experience of nature.

They rejected the conventional notion that narrative content was the foundation of good art, advocating instead that the proper subject of painting should be the effects of natural light and color on form. Monet was one of the first artists to work exclusively out of doors (referred to as “plein-air” painting). Chemical paints had just been invented and were available in portable tubes, and this freed the artist from having to work indoors in the studio. Monet wanted to capture the visual effect of the play of light on the surface of objects, rather than the objects themselves. Expert recommendations Impressionism
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