Impressionism: a historical reconstruction
8 ‘impressionist’ expositions
1874 – 1886
Starting in 1874 and ending in 1886 there were 8 expositions held in Paris. These expositions were independent from the official Paris Salon-des-Beaux-Arts. Nowadays these expositions are known as the ‘impressionist’ expositions. On this page you will find general info about these expositions. Why were these expositions held? Were they successful? Who were the partakers? Who were the main organisers? What were important and representative pictures? What did the critics say? Why did these expositions stop? This and more you will find on this page. (Note: the orange links are not yet active.)
For more info use the links here below:
- When and where were these expositions held and how were they named? see here for an overview
- How were the Impressionists called by contemporary art-critics? First they were often called ‘Intransigeants’ and later on even mostly ‘Indépendants’, see .
- For info an previous initiatives for independent exhibitions and the ‘Société Anonyme d’Artistes…’ see .
- For links to the catalogue and partaken artists per year see .
Note: the catalogue were not fully accurate. Some listed works were not exhibited, other works were exhibited hc (=hors catalogue = outside the catalogue), even some partaking artists weren’t mentioned in the catalogue.
- For explanation of the subscription of the pictures see and for identification of these pictures see .
- My most important sources are Moffett (ed.) (1986=R2), Berson (1996=R90), Dayez (1974=R87), Walther (1992/2013; R3) and Denvir (1993; R5). My most important source for the pictures is the-athenaeum (=iR2). For other general references (=R) see, for the references to internet pages (=iR) see .
Why did the Impressionists organize their own expositions?
The idea for an independent exhibition was not new, see. There already had been solo exhibitions in pavilions, galleries, private studios and also societies of artists who held exhibitions, see. Most partakers of the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions had already exhibited at the Salon and also with success. But it was the unpredictability of the Salon Juries that one year accepted and the other year rejected their works, that frustrated them most and inspired them to organize a serie of independent expositions (R2,p96). Opposing the Salon and permanent independence was not the goal for most partakers, but winning critical and public approval and making money (R2,p145+157). Still other partakers strived more for a group identity, with shared aims and assured quality, conceiving their expositions as a decisive alternative to the Salon. In 1878 Degas even introduced the new condition that an artist intending to exhibit with the group should not submit anything to the Salon (R2,p244).
Ward summarizes the ambiguous ideals, opportunities and risks of an independent exhibition: ‘An exhibition without medals and juries seemed to give the public the power do decide what was worthwhile. Correspondingly, participants took risks in displaying their art without an official stamp of approval’ (R2,p421).
The 1st impressionist exposition in 1874:
The first ‘impressionist’ exposition was organised by Degas, Monet, Pissarro and Renoir and presented under the auspices of the ‘Société anonyme d’artistes…’ , that was founded 1873/12/27 (R2,p93). Denvier writes Renoir did most of the hanging (R5,p86). There were 30 + 1hc = 31 partakers showing more than 216 works of which only half were oil paintings, see. Comtesse de Luchaire (a pseudonyme) was exhibiting hc (R2,p123). Félix Bracquemond exhibited far out the most works (33 of which 32 etchings). The partakers showed just an average of 7 works each. The total amount of the exhibited works will stay uncertain, because the catalogue was not very accurate (R3,p136). 15 of the partakers would never exhibit again at the ‘impressionists’ expositions, this is 26% of all the partakers, see. Pissarro will be the only artist who will join all eight of the expositions. The majority of the participants had earned reputations at the Salon, something Degas pleaded for and Pissarro was opposed to (R2,p105). (Some sources state that these artists were invited to show to the art-critics that this exposition was not a new Salon-des-Refusés (iR4;R83,p38). (I wonder if this statement is substantiated with original sources?) The works were hung in a mixed way determined by lot (R2,p105) or according to Denvier in alphabetical order (R5,p86).
About 3500 people visited the exposition. At the end there was a large debt, what ended in liquidating the ‘Société Anonyme d’Artistes…’, see. There were more than 50 reviews; the majority was positive, especially about the renewing art (R2,p106). Many conservative papers and magazines didn’t pay attention (R3,p140). Claretie reviewed ‘MM. Monet …, Pissaro (sic), Mll. Morizot (sic), etc. seem to declare war on beauty’ (R264,p260). Leroy (1874/04/25) called the partakers in his title ‘impressionists’, but he did not use this term in the article itself, in which he made them ridiculous (R5,p88;R87,p259;R7,p26/27). It was Castagnary, in a positive review, who explicitly gave them the name ‘impressionists’ and who connected this term with the painting ‘impression, soleil levant’ of Monet (R87,p265). As Burty (1874/05/30) would say: ‘M. Castagnary (…) christened these independent young artists, happily enough “The Impressionists” (R90I,p9). But most art-critics didn’t use the term ‘impressionists’, see . The absent Manet was called by Chesneau ‘the first in line’ (R2,p109).
The 2nd impressionist exposition in 1876:
The second impressionist exposition had 19+1hc-1=19 partakers showing more than 281 works, which is more than the 252 catalogue numbers. Apparently Mme de Rambure exhibited without being in the catalogue (R102,p275), but probably she is the same as ‘Jacques François‘, a pseudonym for an unknown woman. Other new-comers were Desboutin, Legros (both showing many works), Jean-Baptiste Millet and Tillot (though he stayed unknown he joined 6 of the 8 expositions). The most important new-comer was Caillebotte, who also was one of the principal organisers, together with Degas, Renoir and Rouart (R2,p158). Lepic showed the most (43) works. The works were hung grouped by artist.
Financially it was relatively successful, but there were less visitors, see. There were more reviews (about 100) in the press, about 1/2 positive and 1/2 negative. Most of them focusing on the sketch-like lack of finish of the paintings and not on the newness of suburban subjects. The art-critics use equally the terms ‘impressionists‘ and ‘intransigeants‘ , see. (R2,p145+157+158)
The 3rd impressionist exposition in 1877:
The third impressionist exposition had 18+1hc-1=18 partakers showing more than 244 works, which makes the catalogue with 241 numbers quiet accurate. Again apparently Mme de Rambure exhibited without being in the catalogue (=hc;R102,p275), but probably she is the same as ‘Jacques François‘, a pseudonym for an unknown woman. Piette (who first joined) and Monet showed the most works (both 31) of which Monet probably showed 8 paintings of his serie of the Gare Saint-Lazare. It was the last time Cézanne joined, he as one of the most well known Impressionists only joined 2 times of the 8 expositions. Caillebotte was the main organiser (and financer), supported by Monet, Pissarro and Renoir. Manet was involved in a diner discussion preliminary to the exposition in Januar (R2,p189). The hanging was done by Caillebotte, Pissarro and Renoir (R5,p105). Art-dealer Legrand was the manager (R2,p262).
Georges Rivière published in April 4 times a journal calling ‘L’Impressionniste’ (R2,p192). Most critics were positive. Most of the criticism was confined to the work of Caillebotte, Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley (R2,p190). Degas, Renoir and Morisot were admired; the landscapists were discussed as a group; on Cézanne the critics were negative (R2, p198+195). There were about 50 reviews, which is half less than 1876 (R5,p104). Most art-critics used the term ‘impressionnistes‘, see. That is not strange, because above the entrance door there was displayed ‘Exposition des Impressionnistes’ (R2,p58). There were about 8.000 visitors, more than 2x the first two expositions, see.
The 4th impressionist exposition in 1879:
The fourth impressionist exposition had 14 + 2hc = 16 partakers showing at least 268 works (the works of Piette were shown posthumously and hc). The catalogue with 246 numbers is not very reliable, many works were send in after the opening (R3,p218). Marie Bracquemond, Cassatt, Forain, Gauguin (hc), Lebourg, Somm and Zandomeneghi made their introduction.
There had been plans for opening an exposition 1878/06/01. Late March 1878 Pissarro sighs in a letter that Renoir and Cézanne were submitting to the Salon and that he fears a complete disbandment of Monet later. ‘If the best artists slip away, what will become of our artistic union?’ (R2,p245). Shortly after Degas sighs, there is just ‘a small nugget that is concerned about us’ (R2,p246). Poor sales at a Drouot auction and a Durand-Ruel exhibition make them postpone the plans. First (1879/03/10) Monet wanted to renounce taking part in the exposition. 1879/03/14 Sisley wrote he decided to submit to the Salon: ‘It is true that our exhibitions have served to make us known… but I believe we must not isolate ourselves too long.’ (R2,p246) M. and Mme. Cazin, Lhermitte, Destrem and Clairin who were candidates eventually didn’t partake (R2,p247-8), also see related painters. Degas was the motor behind this exposition, with other active roles for Caillebotte and Pissarro (and Cassatt, R2,p264). Monet didn’t show up and he left his hanging over to Caillebotte (R2, p258; R5,p115).
This exhibition was the most successful, attracting 4x more visitors than the start in 1874 and ending with a large profit, see. The critics more often used the term ‘indépendants’ than ‘impressionnistes’ , see . Most critics were negative about Caillebotte and positive about Cassatt (R2,p255). Some critics distinguish between the impressionists (Caillebotte, Monet and Pissarro) and the other partakers (R2,p253). Notably are the 21 fans exhibited by Degas, Forain and Pissarro (R2,p266-271), they were not shown in one room (R2,p249+260). The next year Zandomeneghi would exhibit his share (R2,p314).
The 5th impressionist exposition in 1880:
The 5th ‘impressionist’ exposition had 19 partakers exhibiting about 260 works, which is much more than the 232 catalogue numbers. There were many rooms occupied by the works of one or a few artists (R2,p294+7). The catalogue simple cals it the fifth exposition, the poster adds ‘par un groupe d’artistes indépendants’. On this poster the names of Marie Bracquemond, Cassatt, Morisot and Jean-Marius Raffaëlli are absent (R2,p296; R3,p229). This year Monet also was absent, following Renoir and Sisley submitting to the Salon. Jean-Francois Raffaëlli, who did partake for the first time and with far out the most (41) works, is called his successor (R2,p308). Degas played an active role in the planning (R2,p294). There were not much visitors (R5,p119).
The exposition was not well received by most critics (R2,p293). They criticize the lack of vision and unity. ‘Those emigrated from the Salon’ look ‘colourless’ beside ‘the radicals’ (R2,p294). They also criticize the intense use of colour ‘where there should be just a little colour, a hardly noticeable nuance’ (R2,p296). Raffaëlli and Morisot were most reviewed (R2,p297). Notably are the many etching that were exhibited (R2,p310-4), part of the failed journal ‘Le jour et la nuit’ (R84,p235-45), wherein Cassatt, Degas, Forain and Pissarro would take part and probably also Caillebotte, Morisot, Lebourg, J.F. Raffaëlli and others (BeraldiXI,p57=R85).
The 6th impressionist exposition in 1881:
The 6th ‘impressionist’ exposition had 13 + 1hc = 14 partakers showing at least 178 works which is the smallest amount of numbers of all 8 expositions. The works of Cals were shown posthumously and hc (R2,p351). Raffaëlli (34x) and Pissarro (28x) showed the most works. The catalogue (with 170 numbers) simply calls it the sixth exposition; a poster hasn’t come to light (R2,p337). Caillebotte complained ‘Degas introduced disunity into our midst’ and decided not to participate, following Monet, Renoir and Sisley (R2,p337).
Degas organized this exposition. Most partakers were brought into the group by Degas and many have an affinity with representations of aspects of everyday, modern, urban life. The art-critic Trianon writes: ‘They seem to choose that which is ugly, deformed, repugnant…’ (R2,p338). The critics wrote in generalities which makes identification of the exhibited works difficult (R2,p338). The number of visitors was no succes (R5,p125).
Wissman (R2,p337-352) emphasizes the realist painting style of the partakers, laying emphasize on line and drawing (R2,p339). But she doesn’t discern between the Realism of the Barbizon-school, Courbet and contemporary painters as Bastien-Lepage. Still the impressionist painting style of Cassatt, Guillaumin, Morisot and Pissarro is obvious. And maybe this can be said of Gauguin, Rouart, Tillot, Vignon and Zandomeneghi too.
The 7th impressionist exposition in 1882:
The 7th ‘impressionist’ exposition had only 9 partakers showing about 210 works, of which 8hc. This is an average of 23 per partaker. The catalogue for the first time was called ‘exposition des artistes indépendants’, still several art-critics called them ‘impressionnistes’, see. Renoir objected to this term, because of it’s revolutionary associations (R2,p421). On Renoir’s insistence the rule not to submit to the Salon had been suspended (R2,p423). It is interesting to know who suggested the term ‘indépendants’, see also.
Already in November 1881 Gauguin suggested to Pissarro that Rouart had offered to pay a rental. But Gauguin and Guillaumin didn’t want to exhibit again with Raffaëlli and others that were introduced by Degas. On those terms Degas didn’t want to exhibit himself, where after his old schoolfriend Rouart and also Cassatt, Forain, Tillot and Zandomeneghi resigned. In early Februar 1882 Pissarro and Caillebotte started to ask Monet, Morisot and others. During this month the art-dealer Durand-Ruel became increasingly active as co-organizer and decided to show works of Monet and Renoir he owned. Monet pleaded that a new exhibition should be limited to a core group and extremely wel organised. Renoir, being ill in L’Estaque, pleaded for an exhibition based on talent, including Degas, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro and Sisley. He disapproved the anarchist tendencies of Pissarro, Gauguin and Guillaumin. In the end the hanging was done by Caillebotte and Pissarro (R2,p373-378; R3,p232). In the first week of the exposition Eugène Manet did the hanging of the paintings of his wife Berthe Morisot, who was in Nice (R5,p133; R2,p378).
At first their were many visitors and good profits, but probably in the end the exposition ended with pretty large debts, see. Most critics were positive (R5,p132). Caillebotte and Renoir were praised for their figure paintings, especially for their correct drawing (R2,p379). Pissarro was praised most for his outdoor painted large peasant women, painted ‘without false grandeur’ (R2,p381). 3/4 of the paintings were landscapes (R2,p379). Duret called this exposition the best (R2,p373), in line to his 1878 article in which he restricted Impressionism to those artists who were devoted to landscape, colour and open air painting (R2,p378). In this sense it can be called the most impressionist exposition (R5,p132). Pissarro and Sisley were praised; Gauguin, Guillaumin and Vignon were ignored or despised; Renoir’s landscapes were overlooked; the landscapes / works of Caillebotte, Monet and Morisot were variously appreciated (R2,p382).
What happened between 1882-1886?
1882/11/04 Monet and Sisley discussed the future of the group exhibitions. Monet wanted two exhibitions a year, one for landscape paintings and one for figure paintings. Sisley was content with the idea of Durand-Ruel to organise solo-exhibitions (R5,p130). 1882/12/23 Monet and Pissarro considered the gallery of George Petit suitable for a new exposition (R2,p425). In 1883 Durand-Ruel held several solo exhibitions, see. In 1884 the first exhibitions of the Salon des Indépendants were held, see. In the years 1883-85 there were several international and regional exhibitions wherein several Impressionists joint, see , partly organized by Durand-Ruel, see. The question remains: With so many alternatives why did they organize their own exposition again in 1886?
Plans for the eight ‘impressionist’ exhibition started October 1885 (R2,p421). Caillebotte, Cassatt, Degas, Monet, Morisot, Pissarro, Renoir and Sisley were all behind the project of a group exhibition (R2,p423). They didn’t want Durand-Ruel to organize again a group show. But 1885/11/09 Monet accepted to exhibit with George Petit, which implicated that he did not participate in an Impressionist group show (R2,p422). Still he continued corresponding with Pissarro about such an exhibition (R2,p423).
The 8th impressionist exposition in 1886:
The 8th ‘impressionist’ exposition had 17 +1hc = 18 partakers exhibiting about 269 works. Comtesse Rambure seems to have exhibited (R5,p151) outside the inaccurate catalogue, that counted 246 numbers. Pissarro and Rouart both showed the most works (both 27). 5 of the 18 partakers were newcomers. There was one room for ‘Neo-Impressionist’ painters using the new pointillist technique, including Seurat, Signac, Camille and Lucien Pissarro (R2,p425). Redon displayed 15 works in a separate corridor (R2,p439). Degas completed his hanging of the nude pastels during the exposition (R2,p441).
Pissarro (stimulated by Guillaumin) had lobbied to include Gauguin (again), Seurat, Signac and his own son Lucien Pissarro to the group of participants (R2,p423; note: Adler suggests that Guillaumin and others were opposed to Seurat and Signac, R89,p52). Guillaumin later on introduced Redon and Schuffenecker, but abandoned the idea of introducing Dubois-Pillet and Hayet (R2,p425+440;R1,p523). Guillaumin lobbied (with Degas, Rouart and indirectly Morisot) to reinforce the rule not to submit to the Salon and added the rule not to exhibit with an art dealer like George Petit (R2,p423;R89,p52). Degas invited Cassatt, Zandomeneghi, Rouart, Tillot, Forain, Marie Bracquemond (R2,p425). Pissarro and Degas were the principal organizers (R2,p421; R5,p151). Guillaumin also had an active role (R2,p423-5). Cassatt also was a co-organizer (R44,p140). Cassatt, Degas and Morisot guaranteed the costs of the exposition (R44,p26). Other sources mention the exposition was organized by Morisot and her husband Eugène Manet (R68,p105). This exposition wasn’t only independent of the Salon, but also of the art-dealers who controlled the art-market (R2,p421). Still Monet, Raffaëlli and Renoir choose to exhibit with Georges Petit (R2,p422).
The ‘Salon des Indépendants‘ who started in 1884 ‘stole’ the term ‘Indépendants’ from the Impressionists who called their expositions that way in 1882 and more or less in 1881, 1880 and 1879. Thus leaving the Impressionists with the term ‘impressionists’ whereas the term ‘Intransigeants’ already had faded out, see. Ward hardly mentions this fact and often calls the Impressionists ‘independents’ (R2,p421-442). Still in 1886 the artists themselves used again the neutral term ‘8e exposition by… (names of the partaking artists)’.
Many critics who sympathised the Impressionists didn’t review the show. Only in the last weeks new critics, like Fénéon, paid ample attention to the large ‘La Grande-Jatte’ painting of Seurat and the other paintings in a pointillist style. First these works were more neglected (R2,p427/8). Conservative critics still ridiculed with quotes like: ‘executed with a broom’ and ‘colour blindness’ (R2,p428). Bracquemond, Rouart, Tillot and Vignon were ignored (R2,p430).
Why did the ‘impressionist’ expositions stop after 1886?
Ward mentions their were some efforts to continue the group shows. But the Neo-Impressionists found an alternative with the Salon des Indépendants (R2,p426) (and also with les XX in Brussels) , though Gauguin refused to join them (R2,p430). At first Pissarro also felt for this Salon des Indépendants, but was dissuaded by Degas, Durand-Ruel and others (R2,p440). He together with Morisot and Sisley accepted the invitation of the co-organizers Monet and Renoir to exhibit with Georges Petit, the dealer they so keenly wanted to be independent of in 1886 (R2,p426). Degas refused to join and simply stopped promoting the exhibition of his works (R2,p427). Many of the Impressionists continued to show their works at several art-dealers and at several exhibitions in Paris and regional and international exhibitions, see other exhibitions and see art-dealers. For many of them the Salon (now organised by the Société des Artistes Français = SdAF) had lost his status of the most important platform to represent their works (R2,p421/2). Still Sisley will exhibit frequently at the Salon de la Société nationale des Beaux-Arts, an independent successor of the Salon, from 1890 until his death in 1899, see.
What artists were most active within the eight expositions?
The most active artist was Pissarro, partaking as the only one in all eight expositions, showing 197 works, which is far out the most of all, and actively organizing in 5 expositions (1874, 77, 79, 82, 86) + in the ‘Société Anonyme d’Artistes…‘. Next is Degas who did partake in seven expositions, showing about 124 works, and actively organizing in 6 expositions (1874, 76, 79, 80, 81, 86). It also was Degas who invited most of the other partakers. Next is Caillebotte, who did partake in 5 expositions, showing only 70 works. But he was active in organizing 4 expositions (1876, 77, 79, 82) and first also involved in the eight exposition. Next is Renoir who did partake in only 4 expositions, but was active in organizing 3 of them (1874,76,77). He was one of the main organizers of the ‘Société Anonyme d’Artistes…‘ .He first also was involved in the eight exposition and showed in total only 74 works. Next is Monet who did partake in 5 expositions and was active in organizing in two of them (1874+77). At first he was also involved in the eight exposition and showed in total 129 works. Very important also was the quite unknown Rouart. He did partake in 7 expositions, showing 104 works. He was active in organizing the 1876 exposition and also was involved in 1882 and 1886.
Guillaumin had an important role in the eight exposition in 1886 and a smaller role in 1882. He did take part in 6 expositions showing 100 works. Morisot had a role in the eight exposition in 1886. She did partake in 7 expositions showing 89 works. Cassatt also was involved in the eight exposition. She did take part in 4 expositions showing 46 works. Gauguin was involved in the seventh exposition in 1882. He did partake in 4+1hc expositions, showing at least 54 works. Sisley at first was involved in the brainstorms of an eight exposition. He did partake in 4 expositions, showing 58 works. Until his death in 1880 Cals did partake in all the expositions from 1874-79. He was honoured with posthumous exhibiting of his works during the sixth exposition in 1881. In these 5 expositions he showed at least 44 works. Tillot did partake in 6 expositions showing 79 works. Forain did partake 4x, showing 60 works. Vignon exhibited (as one of the few successively) in the last four expositions, showing 57 works.
Of these most active partakers Caillebotte, Cals, Cassatt, Forain, Gauguin, Tillot and Vignon did not join the Société Anonyme d’Artistes…’ or earlier initiatives for an independent exhibition.
Recommanded citation: “8 ‘impressionist’ expositions, 1874-86, general info”. Last modified 2021/10/19. https://www.impressionism.nl/expositions-general-info/.