The Romance Is Overrated

3 Dec 2013

Gustave Caillebotte was a member of the French Impressionists but painted in a much more realist manner than many of his compatriots.
Gustave Caillebotte was a member of the French
Impressionists but painted in a much more
realist manner than many of his compatriots.
I used to think so romantically about Monet, Pissarro, and the other Impressionists. Not romantic like Manet is so dreamy; romantic as in idealizing this particular group of painters—thinking they stepped outside of their studios and, snap, Impressionism just happened. Veneration can sometimes blind the mind’s eye to all the toil and planning that goes behind an elegant masterpiece. The reality is that the Impressionists were strategists, thinkers, and pioneering technicians when it came to the art they produced.

Sure, spontaneity was part of the plein air experience that these 19th-century artists were drawn to, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t work at it. Caillebotte, Gauguin, and Van Gogh are all known to have worked in a fairly traditional manner—warming up with small studies and drawing an underpainting on the surface of a large canvas to solve problems with composition and perspective. The exercises that most landscape painting workshop instructors emphasize today or acrylic painting demo classes use are the same ones the Impressionists performed in their own plein air painting situations.

Monet and others also took advantage of advancements that came along in their day and age, just as many of us do with acrylic painting techniques or new oil painting innovations. Tube colors that traveled well and contained vibrant pigments made it possible for them to capture a whole world of colors. They were also riding a wave of new color theory, including innovative ideas about complementary colors and broken color, or how putting two strokes of color side by side creates the illusion of a third color. These ideas haven’t been around forever, and to the Impressionists they were revolutionary. 

Depictions of "controlled nature" were a hallmark of Monet's style.
Depictions of "controlled nature" were a
hallmark of Monet's style.

I try to remind myself of all this when I feel a bit swallowed up by Impressionism intimidation. Knowing the artists used techniques that I can also acquire with a little practice and patience is comforting, and I've spent a lot of time working on my Impressionist methods with acrylic paints--mimicking the Masters' techniques with this versatile and accessible medium.

I’ve learned a lot from my own research, but the Acrylic All Stars Deluxe Palette resources have also given me so much great guidance and information. Guides like Acrylic Innovations and Surface Treatment Workshop focus on forward-thinking contemporary practices that make the idea of working with my own brand of Impressionism more of a real and immediate possibility. These resources can bring the Impressionists a step closer to you, too. Enjoy! 

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on 8 Dec 2013 5:52 PM


Here is an article that is written so well and with such authority that none of us has ventured a comment, much less any point of disagreement. You have managed to put subtle feelings into words, speak from your own personal perspective yet relate it the way we all work—and offer encouragement.

Well, I'll find something to disagree with. How about your headline? "The Romance Is Overrated". I saw an old movie the other night with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Now that was romance—and without impressionistic color. It was black and white.