Please do not quote from this webpage, which is fully under construction.
The information is incomplete and maybe partly incorrect.


Impressionism, a historical reconstruction:


of the ‘impressionists’

an overview


On this page you will find overviews of some characteristics of the partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions (and some related artists). The characterics that are mentioned are: gender; nationality; age; prosperity; political opinions; religious beliefs.


Most of the partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions were men. In the catalogues there are 3 women mentioned. Marie Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot. Jacques François who did partake in 1876 + 1877 was a pseudonym for a woman and was posibly the same as Comtesse de Rambure, who participated in 1886, but wasn’t in the catalogue. In 1874 Comtesse de Luchaire participated, but she also wasn’t in the catalogue. So probably there have been 5 women that participated and 52 men.

Desboutin often depicted his family, especially his children. He had a daughter from his first wife, who probably died in 1873. His second wife gave birth to a son 1870/09/01; they officially married 1877/02/22; 3 of the 9 children from his second wife survived (R158).
Maureau probably was seperated from his wife.
In 1866 Alfred Sisley started a relationship with Marie-Adélaïde-Eugénie Lescouezec. He would marry her officially 1897/08/05. Two of 3 children survived.


Most partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions were of course French by nationality. But not all. Mary Cassatt was born in the USA, in Pennsylvania.
Edgar Degas was French, though his grandfather had fled to Italy and part of the family still lived there. Desboutin also was French though he lived many years in Italy. Legros was born French, but was naturalized in 1880 (or 1881) as a British citizen (R88;iR3;iR14;iR173); he never would master the English language (R88;iR173). Maureau probably was French, but he probably was born in New Orleans in the USA. Auguste de Molins was Swiss by nationality. All his life Camille Pissarro had the Danish nationality being born at Charlotte-Amalie on Saint-Thomas, the than Danish (and now US) Virgin Islands in the Antilles. I assume that his son Lucien Pissarro, being born in Paris, also had this Danish nationality; July 1916 he received the English citizenship  (aR8;R3;R88;R9;R16;iR24;iR65;iR3). Sisley his parents were English and Alfred would keep the English nationality all of his life, because an attempt to become naturalized failed in 1897. Zandomeneghi was an Italian and came to Paris in 1874 and never returned.

Here below you will find two overviews of the partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions. One in order of birth and one in order of death. Some partakers are left out, because these data are unknown, namely Jacques François, who probably is the same as Comtesse de Rambure and Comtesse de Luchaire.
Note: info will follow.


Some partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions came from a richer background, others from a more poor background. Here you will find an overview. Note: of many partakers there is no information on this.
A richer background:
Cordey had a personal fortune and was financially independend (R3;R88;iR4;iR116;iR250).
Edgar Degas was born in a rich banking family, with aristocratic roots (R47,p11). Due to problems in the family business he had limited resources between 1874 till about 1883. After that he was able (again) to gather a large art-collection.
Desboutin was born into a wealthy, aristocratic family and signed as ‘baron Desboutin de Rochefort’ (iR65;R3;iR1;R9;R259;R88;R158,p37+113). Desboutin had lived in Florence a life of luxery (R71,p108;R88). By speculating in real estate he was ruined and in 1870 he had to sell the ‘villa dell’Ombrellino’ in Florence (R88;R3;R9;iR3;aR10). Since 1873 he lived in Paris (with his dog) in a bohemien way, without money, his studio being a ruin (R71,p108;R1,p235). But when we look at the pictures of his children, we see a baby carriage, a walker form little children and all sorts of toys, which doesn’t seem to indicate severe poverty. Marz 1873 he spent time in London, together with Giuseppe de Nittis (R158,p112). In 1881 he bought a villa in Nice (R158,p107). All these things don’t indicate a bohemian / poor way of live. The relocation to Nice was paid with a sale at Hôtel Drouot (R158,p35+36+124;aR15).
Lepic had an aristocratic backround; in 1875he received the title Comte; before he had the title Vicomte (iR3;aR1).
The father of Auguste Ottin was part of the upwardly mobile petite bourgeoisie (aR13,p256)
Piette came from a noble family from Lassay (Mayenne) (aR27=R202). In 1854 After the death of his parents / father Piette inherited the family estate of Monfoucault.
Comtesse de Rambure had an aristocratic background and (probably) was well to do.
Redon came from a prosperous family (iR3).
Since 1872 Schuffenecker worked at Bertin, a stock exchange agency in Paris; he had received a large inheritence in 1880; started collecting art; supported Gauguin.

A poorer background:
In the second half of the 19th century in France one could not earn much by making etchings and Félix Bracquemond did know poverty.
After 1870/1874 Forain led a bohemian lifestyle, owning very little money (R43,p13;R50,17;R88;aR4). Later in his life he was able to build a house (1896 or 1899) and to buy a country house (in 1909).
Untill 1883/84 Gauguin had a good job and a small art-collection. After that he often suffered poverty.
Though he had a job till 1892, Guillaumin was extremely poor (R4,p144;R1,p173;R21;aR2). In 1891 he received 100.000 francs from a lottery (or received a special premium from a bond) and became financially independent.
Lépine was quite poor, had a modest success and died poor. Rouart launched a collection to help pay for the funeral, settle the debts and support the widow (aR4,p12+13;R116I,p239;R3;R21;R74;iR5;aR2;R88).
Lucien Pissarro, suffered often poverty throughout his life (R312).
Renoir came from a working class family. His father was a tailor and his mother a dressmaker. In the 1860s and 1870s Renoir often was short of money and was hardly able to buy food or painting materials. Since the 1880s his luck changed. This financial prosperity is translated in his frequent travels (1881-1898) and in buying a house in Essoyes in 1895 and the estate ‘Les Colettes’ in Cagnes in 1907 (R31).
The father of Alfred Sisley, William, was a successful businessman. Alfred didn’t have to worry about selling paintings. His father would die late 1870 and left Alfred without financial support. In the early 1870s and again in the 1880s purchases by Durand-Ruel gave some financial air, but in 1899 Sisley died a poor man.
Because several art-collectors collected Vignon his work, this gave him many years without financial worries (R272,p5). Still, in 1903 an auction sale  was organised at Hôtel Drouot on behalf of Vignon, who lived in the most abject poverty.


Political opinions:
First I will render some information on the political constitution of France. (See links to more info on WikiPedia (=iR3) and to general info on France.) Since the 16th century France had been a kingship with kings from the Bourbon dynasty. During the French Revolution of 1789 King Louis XVI was overtrown and in 1792 the 1st French Republic was proclaimed. In 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte became the 1st Emperor. This lasted till 1814/15 when the Bourbon dynasty was re-installed. After the July revolution of 1830, Louis Philippe I, from the house of Orléans became king. After the Februar Revolution of 1848 the 2nd French Republic was proclaimed and Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte became the 1st French president. After a coup d’etat 1851/12/02 he became emperor Napoleon III. The French-Prussian war started 1870/07/19, early September Napoleon III was captured and the 3rd French Republic proclaimed. The war ended 1871/02/28 with an armistice.

In France (after the French-Prussian war) some people wanted to re-install the monarchy. Some wanted to re-install the Bourbon dynasty, the so-called Legitimists, some were Orléanists.

In France (after the French-Prussian war) some people wanted to re-install the empire by a descendent of the Bonapart dynasty.

Since early September 1870 the 3rd French Republic was installed, which lasts till this day. But before that several artists had Republican sympathies.

Anarchism and Socialism:
Several people in France, including partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions, sympatised with the Socialist ideas of Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825), Charles Fourier (1772-1837), Louis Blanc (1811-82), Karl Marx (1818-83), Friedrich Engels (1820-93), and Anarchist ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-65). 1871/03/18: start of the revolting Commune in Paris, trying to establish an independant government
Many Communards had Socialist, Anarchist and anti-religious opinions (R2,p96;R60,p34;R3,p103;iR3). Some  partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions were Communards or sympatised with them. In 1871 Auguste Ottin participated in the defense of the 18e arrondissement under the Commune and, together with his son Léon, was appointed to the Fédération des artistes of which Courbet was the chairman (aR13,p263;R3,p136). Forain had sympaties with the Communards (aR4).
The following partakers had Socialist of Anarchist opinions: Guillaumin, Meyer, Camille Pissarro, Lucien Pissarro (visited socialist conferences).
Renoir in 1882 was opposed to exhibit with Pissarro, Gauguin and Guillaumin, who had Socialist sympathies. (R2,p57)
Auguste Ottin was a supporter of Fourierism, a religious, utopian, socialist movement (iR3).
In 1883 Camille Pissarro got interested in Socialism (R3). 1884/01/21 he promoted in a letter to his son Lucien a book of Proudhon (R116,p117). In 1885 Camille became an anarchist (R3). In 1894 he fled to Belgium out of fear of being persecuted for his anarchist ideas (R3;R312,p23).
1894/06/02 Signac took refuge in Belgium because of a wave of arrests of people in anarchist circles (R39,p305).

The Dreyfus affair:
The Dreyfus affair was a political scandal that divided France in the years 1894 – 1906. In December 1894 Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason. He was a captain in the army and was a Jewish descent. In 1896 Zola published his famous letter ‘J’accuse…!’ in the newspaper L’aurore in which he claimed that Dreyfus was falsely accused. Those who supported Dreyfus were called Dreyfusards. In 1906 Dreyfus was pardoned, released and rehabilitated.
1898/01/15 Sigac supported Zola in the Dreyfus affair (R39,p307).
Artists that were more anti-Dreyfusards were: Degas; Forain (fervant);
Artists that were more neutral were: Guillaumin;


Religious beliefs:
In the 19th century many French were Roman Catholic. At least at important momements in life the church played a role in many lifes, namely the baptism as a baby, the marriage and the funeral. Due to the French Revolution France became a secular state and the power of the Roman Catholic church in France was limited. In the Charter of 1814 the freedom of religion was ordained.
Brandon had a Jewish background and depicted everyday Jewish life.
Camille Pissarro was Jewish by birth, but rejected the Jewish beliefs and was a convinced atheist (R312,p23).
At a later age Forain converted to the Catholic faith, but it is unclear if this was in 1887 or in 1900 (R43,p25+26;R50,p52+53).
Comtesse de Rambure, if she is the same as Mme la marquise de Rambures, had an intense knowledge of Catholic faith.
Around 1890-1896 Schuffenecker started to get interested in the Theosophical ideas of Madame Blavatsky and later joined the movement of the Rosicrusians (R54,p36+119vv;R9).


See the sources at the bottom of the pages of the partakers of the ‘impressionist’ expositions.


Recommended citation: “Characteristics of the ‘impressionists’; an overview. Last modified 2023/11/24.