1st ‘impressionist’ exposition 1874



Impressionism: a historical reconstruction

The 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition


General info


The start of the ‘impressionist’ expositions:
The 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition was held in 1874 in Paris. It was organised by the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc‘. It was called the première exposition 1874‘ and was held at 35, Boulevard des Capucines in the former Nadar studio (at the corner of the Rue Daunou). The doors opened the 15th of April and closed the 15th of May.
At this exposition 30+1hc=31 partakers showed at least 225 art-works, which is much more than the 165 numbers in the catalogue. (See slide show.) Less than 50% of these art-works were oil paintings. Félix Bracquemond showed far out the most (=33) works, including 32 etchings.
None, of the partakers did use a fully mature impressionist painting style, maybe Sunset at Ivry↑ of Guillaumin (no.64) was the most impressionist painting exhibited. Several art-works, namely enamels of Alfred Meyer and sculptures of Auguste Ottin, even had Néo-Classical themes and Ingres was honoured in 3 art-works↓↓ (catalogue nos.24-12 +25-5 +126). About 3500 people visited the exposition. The reviews were quite positive and it was Castagnary in a positive review who explicitly called them “impressionist”, explicitly referring to Impression, soleil levant↓ of Monet and not Leroy as the ever repeated myth about Impressionism tells us.
On this page you will find information on the organisation, the partakers, the used techniques, the lenders, the reviews and the results.


1874: the organisation:
The first ‘impressionist’ exposition was organised by Degas, Monet, Pissarro and Renoir and presented under the auspices of the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc, that was founded 1873/12/27. Probably modest sales had given them confidence that the exposition could be a success. Père Martin was the business leader or provisional manager of the exposition. Edmond Renoir edited the catalogue. The hanging was described by Castagnary: ‘The works are grouped according to size; and the small ones will be hung beneath the large, this in an alphabetical order; the letter with which to begin being drawn by lot.’; and also by Burty: ‘It is fate that decides the placement, the works being previously grouped by dimension’.
Renoir did most of the hanging. According to Ernest d’Hervilly (1874/04/17) there were 7 or 8 rooms, excellently decorated and illuminated, which were (according to de Lora) spread over two floors. They were large with red-brown walls (Burty) and had floor to ceiling windows. Castagnary (1874/04/29) remarked that there would be no more than two rows of pictures.
Renoir later would say that (in 1874) he objected against using a title with a more precise meaning. A year before Alexis already had written that ‘They only want to unite interests, not systems’ (R88II,p231).
Sources: R1,p310+313+318+339; R2,p55+93+118; R3,p135; R5,p86; R88II,p231-234; R90I,p3; R87,p224; R177,p27+39; aR5; aR8=iR424.

1874: the partakers:
 There were 30 + 1hc = 31 partakers showing about 225 art-works of which only half were oil paintings (see slideshow). Comtesse de Luchaire (a pseudonyme) was exhibiting outside the catalogue (=hors catalogue =hc) (R2,p123). All the following exhibitions there would be less than 20 partakers. Félix Bracquemond exhibited far out the most art-works (33 of which 32 etchings). The partakers showed just an average of 7 art-works each. The total amount of the exhibited works will stay uncertain, because the catalogue was not very accurate.
Camille Pissarro would be the only artist who  joined all 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions. The majority of the participants had earned reputations at the Salon, something Degas pleaded for and Pissarro was opposed to. Degas wanted to prefend, that the exposition looked like a Salon-des-Refusés.
15 of the partakers would never would exhibit again at the ‘impressionists’ expositions, this is 26% of all the partakers: Astruc, Attendu, Boudin, Brandon, Colin, Debras, Latouche, Lépine, Comtesse de Luchaire, Meyer, de Molins, Mulot-Durivage, de Nittis, Auguste Ottin and Robert. The following 5 partakers would join 1 more time: in 1876: Béliard, BureauLépic and Léon Ottin and in 1877: Cézanne. The other 11 partakers would exhibit more often: Félix Bracquemond (3x), Levert, Renoir + Sisley (4x), Cals + Monet (5x), Guillaumin (6x), Degas, Morisot + Rouart (7x), Pissarro (8x).
Note: Renoir later would mention ’the thiry-nine’ (R2,p55), which could mean there were more partakers intended, then the 31 that did participate. Anyway, 6 members of the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc didn’t join.
Sources: R2,p105+123; R3,p136; R83,p38; R88II,p232; iR4.

1874: the used techniques:
See link for an overview of the used techniques. See also the link to the slide show.
Probably 111 oil paintings were exhibited, just about 49,3% of the total amount of 225 art-works. 4 partakers didn’t exhibit oil paintings.

Notable are the many engravings exhibited by 4 partakers, namely by Félix Bracquemond: 32x (catalogue nos.24-28). Lepic showed 3 etchings (no.78-80). Léon Ottin showed 1 lithogrape (no.133). Rouart showed 2 etchings (no.157+158). So in total there were probably 38 engravings exhibited, about 17!% of the total amount of 225 art-works.

Typical for this exhibition also were the 10 sculptures of Auguste Ottin (nos.119-128), about 4,4% of the total amount of art-works.

Many (8) partakers exhibited aquarelles: Astruc, at least 8 of which at least 2 were gouaches (no.1-3); Attendu 3x (nos.10-12); Boudin 4x (no.22); Brandon at least 2, I assume 6 (no.31); Lepic 4x (nos. 74-77); Morisot 3x (nos.110-112); Rouart 3x (No.154-156); Robert showed at least 2 aquarelles (no.160). So in total there were probably 33 aquarelles exhibited, about 15% of the total amount of art-works.

The following 5 partakers exhibited pastels: Boudin 6x (no.20+21); Degas 1x (no.61); Monet 7x (nos.99-102); Morisot 3x (no.108+109+hc); Renoir 1x (no.146). So in total there were probably 18 pastels exhibited, about 8% of the total amount of art-works.

The following 5 partakers exhibited drawings: Bracquemond 1x (no.23); Brandon 2x (no.30+32); Debras 1x (no.52); Meyer 1x (no.91bis). The catalogue indicates that Degas showed 4 drawings (nos.58+59+60+62). For the numbers 59 + 62 works done with thinned oil are suggested and for no.60 a grisaille oil painting. But as long as more certain suggestions are given and because for some numbers pure drawings are options, I assume they were all drawings. So in total there were probably 9 drawings exhibited, about 4% of the total amount of art-works.

There were 0 art-works exhibited made with mixed techniques, 0% of the total amount of art-works.

Some partakers used other techniques: Alfred Meyer showed 5 enamel art-works (nos.87-91). Léon Ottin exhibited a curtain made for a theater (no.132). So in total there were  6 art-works exhibited made with mixed techniques, about 3% of the total amount of art-works.

Several of the above mentioned works can also be seen as applied art: 3 book illustrations by Félix Bracquemond (no.24-10 +27-2 +27-5); the 5 enamel art-works shown by Alfred Meyer (nos.87-91); a curtain by Léon Ottin (no.132).

Was this an impressionist exposition?
When we see Impressionism as a painting style, was this exposition in 1874 than an impressionist exposition? It was not in the sense that none of the art-works was made in a fully impressionist painting style. Many of the colours used were quite sub-dued and many brownish, greyish and blackish hues were used. Maybe Guillaumin’s Sunset at Ivry↑↑ (no.20) was the most impressionist painting exhibited. The sky, in which he used slightly unnatural colours (the greens), vibrates in a beautiful way. Still, the shadows are made of dark brown and not purple hues.
Did the art-critics regard the partakers as ‘impressionists’?
Cardon couldn’t regard Brandon, Cals and de Molins as followers of the New School (R87,p263;R90I).
Chesnau found it a major error to include ‘de Nittis, Boudin, Bracquemond, Brandon, Lépine, Gustave Colin‘ (R87,p268/9;R22I,p107)

1874: the lenders:
All 3 works of Lépine were loans. Most works of Degas were loans (7 out of 10). Other loans were of Attendu (3 out of 7), Sisley (2 out of 6), Béliard (1 out of 4), Cals (3 out of 7), Cézanne (1 out of 3), Guillaumin (1 out of 3), Morisot (1 out of 10), Léon Ottin (1 out of 7), Rouart (1 out of 11). So, in total there had been 24 loans, which is about 11% of all the works exhibited.
Brandon did lent 3 works of Degas (no.55+57+61). Rouart did lent 1 work of Cals (no.38) and 1 of Degas (no.56). Durand-Ruel did lent 2 works of Sisley (no.161+162). Loans of other art-collectors were: Fauré did lent 2 works of Degas (no.54+63). Dr. Gachet did lent 1 work of Cézanne (no.43) and 1 work of Guillaumin (no.66). Other lenders were: Brullé lending 1 work of Lépine; Manet did lent 1 work of Morisot (no.106). Mulbacher did lent 1 work of Degas (no.60). Sporck did lent 1 work of Lépine. There also were anonymous lenders: D. lending 1 work of Béliard (no.13); J. D. lending 2 works of Attendu (no.11+12) and 1 of Rouart (no.150);  H. lending 1 work of Cals (no.39); M. lending 1 work of Cals (no.37) and 1 of Lépine (no.83); T. N. lending 1 work of Léon Ottin (no.134); A. Q. lending 1 work of Attendu (no.7).


1874: the reviews of Leroy and Castagnary:
Leroy (1874/04/25) his review in ‘Charivari’ was called “L’exposition des impressionnistes” (R2,p490;R90I,p25/6;R87,p259-261;R5,p88;R7,p26/27). In his negative review Leroy performs a fabricated dialogue with the reactionairy M. Joseph Vincent. Many emphasize that he was the first to use the term ‘impressionism’ and thus was responsible for the naming of the Impressionists (R88II,p235;R3;R87), you will find this opinion repeated at WikiPedia (iR3) and WikiSource (iR416). Rewald even rendered most of this review in the chapter about ’the origin of the word “impressionism” (R1,p318-324). They all follow Georges Rivière in his necrology of 1927/01/01 in L’art vivant: “It was a work of Monet that baptisted the groupe as ‘Impressionists’ by Louis Leroy in le Charivari” (R357-1927,p17). But Leroy only did use the term ‘impressionnistes’ in the title, not once in his article. Neither did he give special attention to Impression, soleil levant of Monet, as many suggest. Indeed he repeatedly used the term ‘impression’, but that is something else than ‘impressionnistes’ and something else than explicitly referring to Impression, soleil levant.
Instead, it was Castagnary, in a merely positive review, who explicitly gave the partakers the name ‘impressionists’ and who connected this term with the painting ‘impression, soleil levant’ of Monet (R87,p265; 1874/04/29 in Le Siècle: “Exposition du boulevard des Capucines: Les Impressionnistes” (R2,p490;R90I,p15-17;R87,p264/5). He pleads to use the term ‘impressionists‘, because these painters ‘don’t render a landscape, but the sensation produced by that landscape’ and ‘in the catalogue soleil levant of M. Monet is not called landscape but impression.’ (R87,p265;R90I,p17). So Castagnary is the explicit origin of the term ‘impressionism’ and not Leroy as many state. This is affirmed by Philip Burty who reviewed 1874/05/30: “The Siècle, having on its staff M. Castagnary, an intimate friend of Courbet and formerly an ardent defender of realism, christened the independent young artists, happily enough, “The Impressionists”.” (R90I,p9). Still, several writers suggest the article of Castagnary also was a negative one (R177,p39), confirming the myth that ‘impressionistes’ was only used as a scornfull name.
This is one of the many myths around Impressionism, presenting the Impressionists as victims of the hostile established art-world.

1874: other reviews:
There were more than 50 reviews. Most art-critics didn’t use the term ‘impressionists’, see. The majority was positive, especially about the renewing art (R2,p106), namely Silvestre and Burty. Still, many sources suggest that most reviews were negative (aR5). But, many conservative papers and magazines didn’t pay attention (R3,p140;R1,p328). Another source (Tucker 1984/12) counting 19 reviews mentions “Six were very positive; three were mixed, but generally positive; one was mixed but generally negative; four were negative; five were notices or announcements.” (R2,p58). Belinda Thompson mentions 52 reviews of which 20 were favourable, 9 neutral, 18 mixed and 5 hostile (iR429).
Some reviews indeed were negative, like the above mentioned Leroy. And Pissarro, writing 1874/05/05 to Duret, sighs ’the critics are devouring us’ (R1,p331). Claretie reviewed ‘MM. Monet …, Pissaro (sic), Mll. Morizot (sic), etc. seem to declare war on beauty’ (R264,p260;R1,p326). The absent Manet was called by Chesneau ’the first in line’ (R2,p109;R87,p225). Castagnary, who explicitly pleaded to use the term ‘impressionists’ praised the talent, namely of Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley. But he warns that many subjects don’t lend themselves to a rapid ‘impression’. He also warns that a school is based on doctrines and not on a technique of execution. (R1,p329/330)
Silvestre wrote ‘It is the momentary impression that is the only thing that matters here’ (R22I,p108).
Notably was the absence of a review by Zola (R87,p225).

Myths on the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition:
Many sources mention that the impressionists were mostly criticised, namely in 1874. Rewald (R1,p318) remarks that ’the critics were either extremely harsh in their comments or simply refused to consider the show seriously’ and next cites most of the negative and cynical review of Leroy, leaving out the more positive parts (R1,p318-324). But, in fact the majority of the reviews were positive. Rewald acknowledges that many of the prominent (conservative) critics chose to remain silent and that Burty and Silvestre reviewed favorably, but next renders critical remarks of Silvestre (R1,p328).
Rewald claims the visitors came ‘mainly came to laugh’ and a bit later cites parts from the novel l’Oeuvre of Zola, describing a crowd laughing at an exhibition (R1,p318+328;R292,p155-157), but this refers to the Salon des Refuses of 1863 and is dramatised because it is a novel. I don’t think this is appropriate in a book on art-history. Also the remark that the ‘impressionists’ ‘gained nothing but ridicule’ (R1,p326), seems exaggerated. In these ways, Rewald and others, just reinforce the myth that the ‘impressionists’ were just rejected and scorned at. Indeed, they received harsh critics, but they received also praise. I like to plead for a more nuanced view.


1874, visitors, costs, profits, results:
At the first day of the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition there were 175 visitors and on the last day 54, with an average of 117 per day. In total there were around 3.500 visitors paying 1 franc entrance fee.

What were the profits? The total profits were 10.221 franc. What did it consist of?
3.500 visitors payed 1 franc, what makes 3500fr; just 322 catalogues were sold for 0,50 franc, together 3.500 + 161 = 3.661 franc.
The 31 partakers had to pay a contribution of 60 franc plus another 1,25fr. There also were 6 artists that paid contribution, but didn’t exhibit. Félix Bracquemond didn’t pay, maybe Comtesse de Luchaire also didn’t. Anyway, 35 artists payed 61,25fr = 2.143,75fr.
The partakers also had to pay 10% provision for sold works; 10 or 15 works were sold for 3500fr, so this provided 350 franc. Sisley sold for 1000fr, Monet for 200, Renoir for 180, Pissarro for 130fr (R1,p334). Boudin, Degas and Morisot didn’t sell anything. All these earnings added together would give a total of 350fr.
Together this makes: 3.661 + 2.143,75 +350 = 6.154,75. This would mean there were an additional of  4.066,25fr unknown profits. Maybe the social fund where members had to donate 5 francs a month, was part of this unknown profit. The contribution of 60 francs was for two art-works to exhibit. Almost all partakers showed more works, but didn’t pay extra contribution. (Others hadn’t paid but half of the contribution.)

What were the costs? The rent was 2020 franc (though according to Monet the lent was without fee). Additional costs were for decorating (3.341fr), light (983,70fr), catalogues (742fr), posters, policemen (141fr), insurance, wages, etc. The total costs mounted till 9.272 franc.

What was the result? The profit was 949 franc. But Walther writes about a small profit at first sight, but a debt per partaker of 184,50 franc at the end of the year (in total this would be 5.719,50 franc!).
Rewald writes of 2.359,50 outstanding shares.
It were the members of the Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc that paid the costs. This ended in liquidating the ‘Société Anonyme d’Artistes…’.
Sources: Rewald (1973=R1,p328+334); Moffett (1986=R2,p106); Denvir (1993=R5,p87+85); Walther (2013=R3,p136); Wildenstein (R22I,p107); Adhémar (R87,p224/5); Monneret (R88II,p231-235); aR8=iR424; .



General sources:
My main sources are Moffett (1986=R2=aR1), Berson (1996=R90), Dayez (1974=R87=aR2), Rewald (1973=R1), Walther (2013=R3), Roe (2006=R4), Denvir (1993=R5), Monneret (1978-81=R88), Adler (1998=R89). See the link for other general References (=Rx) and to the internet references (=iRx). See here below for additional references (=aRx). See links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.


Additional references (=aRx):

  1. archive.org//t7cr6bg0d (Online version of Moffett: The New Painting, 1986 =R2=iR19)
  2. libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/78484 (Online version of Centenaire de l’Impressionnisme, 1974 (=R87=iR271)
  3. thoughtco.com/2578283 (article on Monet’s Impression, soleil levant, repeating the myth that Leroy gave name to the Impressionists; =iR417)
  4. en.WikiSource.org (text of the review of Leroy; =iR416).
  5. impressionistsarts.com//first (extended article on the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition; with 19 pictures of which 9 were exhibited in 1874 and 5 of Manet; also repeating several myths on Impressionism; =iR374)
  6. magrasku.de/erste_impressionisten-ausstellung (short article in German on the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition, with several pictures; =iR59)
  7. thoughtco.com/183013 (short article on the first impressionist exposition by Beth Gersh-Nesic with 1 not exhibited picture; =iR417)
  8. culture.gouv.fr//1874 (extended and substantive article on the first impressionist exposition; 62 links to art-works that are exhibited, but uncertainties and disputions are left out; =iR424)
  9. magrasku.de/vor_den_Ausstellungen (article in German on the precedings of the ‘impressionist’ expositions, with several pictures; =iR59)
  10. www.youtube.com//art_101_1874 (video on the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition by Mr. Burgher with extended info, beautiful pictures and irritating clips; counting only the catalogue numbers; also attention for unknown partakers; iR429)
  11. artchive.com//1st-impressionist-exhibit (article on the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition, repeating several myths; rendering just a few pictures; =iR202)


Recommanded citation: “Impressionism, a historical reconstruction: The 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874; general info. Last modified 2024/02/12. https://www.impressionism.nl/1st-impressionist-exposition-1874/.”


Note: More info will be added.