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 links for info an previous initiatives for independent exhibitions and the ‘Société Anonyme d’Artistes…‘.
- 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 .
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).
There were 56 partakers mentioned in the catalogues of the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions. Two partakers were not mentioned in the catalogue (=hc): in 1874 a Comtesse de Luchaire and in 1886 a Comtesse de Rambure, but she probably was the same as ‘Jacques François‘, who exhibited in 1876 + 1877. So, in total there were 56+2hc-1=57 partakers.
Almost half of the partakers, namely 28, exhibited just 1x, 15 of them only in 1874. Only 1 artist, namely Camille Pissarro exhibited at all the 8 expositions. Just 3 joined 7x: Degas, Morisot and Rouart and just 2 joined 6x: Guillaumin + Tillot (6x). So, you see also less known artists joining many times. But, many of the most known artists didn’t partake that often: Monet + Gauguin + Caillebotte (5x), Cassatt, Renoir + Sisley (4x), Cézanne (2x), Redon, Seurat + Signac (1x).
The number of partakers varied from 9 in 1882 to 31 in 1874. The number of exhibited works varied from 186 in 1881 to 309 in 1880. The average amount of exhibited works per artist varied from 7,2 in 1874 to 23,6 in 1882. This is much more than the average at the Salon of about 1,5 and also at other (independant) exhibitions. (See more: size of the exhibitions)
The 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1874:
The 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition of 1874 was organised by the ‘Société anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs, etc. It was called the ‘première exposition 1874‘. At this exposition 31 partakers showed about 225 art-works, which is much more than the 165 numbers in the catalogue. (See slide show.) 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 of Alfred Meyer and Auguste Ottin, even had Néo-Classical themes and Ingres was honoured in 3 art-works↓ (no.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 tells us.
The 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1876:
The 2nd ‘impressionist’ exposition held in 1876 in Paris. Officially it was called ‘2e exposition de peinture‘. There were 19 partakers showing about 298 art-works, which is more than the 252 catalogue numbers. (See slideshow.) Caillebotte was an important newcomers and one of the organisers. Desboutin, Lepic and Legros were a sort of guests of honour, showing many etchings. Renoir showed paintings in a mature Impressionist style. Fauré and Chocquet were important lenders.
The 3rd ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1877:
The 3rd ‘impressionist’ exposition held in 1877 was the only of the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions, that was called explicitly “impressionist”, namely there was above the entrance door displayed ‘Exposition des Impressionnistes’ (R2,p58), but this was not repeated in the catalogue. The journal ‘L’Impressionniste’ appeared 4 times. There were 18 partakers showing 249 art-works, which is a bit more than the 241 catalogue numbers. (See slideshow.) About 85% of these art-works were oil paintings, Degas showed several pastels on monotype. Caillebotte was the main organiser, the financer and an important lender. Hoschedé was the most important lender. Monet showed probably 8 paintings depicting the Saint-Lazare station, but there is confusion about the many interiors in the catalogue and the many exteriors Monet depicted. The most prominent work exhibited was Bal du moulin de la Galette of Renoir, a masterpiece in an impressionist painting style. Piette, a friend of Pissarro, was a sort of guest of honour showing 31 art-works.
The 4th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1879:
The 4th impressionist exposition in 1879 had 14 + 2hc = 16 partakers showing about 272 art-works (see the slideshow). There were namely many drawings and fans exhibited. The works of Piette were shown posthumously and outside the catalogue (=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 Para-Impressionists. 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 in 1880 had 19 partakers exhibiting about 309 art-works, which is much more than the 232 catalogue numbers. Just about 52% of the exhibited art-works were oil paintings, 27% were etchings. (See slideshow). The catalogue simple calls it the fifth exposition, the poster adds ‘par un groupe d’artistes indépendants‘. 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 (46) art-works, is called his successor (R2,p308). Other new-comers were Jean-Marius Raffaëlli, Vidal and Vignon. Degas played an active role in the planning (R2,p294). Many partakers showed paintings made in a more or less impressionist style or at least landscapes made in a pre-impressionist style. The exposition was not well received by most critics (R2,p293). They criticised the lack of vision and unity. There were not much visitors (R5,p119).
The 6th impressionist exposition in 1881:
The 6th ‘impressionist’ exposition held in 1881 had 13 + 1hc = 14 partakers showing about 186 art-works which is the smallest amount of numbers of all 8 expositions (see slideshow). The works of Cals were shown posthumously and outside the catalogue (=hc) (R2,p351). Raffaëlli (34x) and Pissarro (28x) showed the most works. The catalogue (with 170 numbers) simply calls it the sixth exposition (R2,p337). Beforehand Caillebotte complained ‘Degas has brought disorder into our midst’, he namely opposed to Raffaëlli and other ‘fighters for Realism’ 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 wrote: ‘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 partly this can be said of Gauguin, Rouart, Tillot, Vignon and Zandomeneghi too.
The 7th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1882:
At the 7th ‘impressionist’ exposition held in 1882 in Paris. Gauguin and Guillaumin beforehand had opposed to 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. There were only 9 partakers, who exhibited about 212 art-works (85% oil paintings), which is a bit more than the 203 numbers in the catalogue.This exposition can be seen as the most impressionist exposition (see also the slide-show), but it was called ‘indépendants‘. Many disagreements preceeded this exposition, eventually it was the art-dealer Durand-Ruel who persevered the exposition. Vignon, now hardly known, also exhibited amidst his impressionist collegues.
What happened between 1882-1886?
In 1883 Durand-Ruel held several solo exhibitions of Impressionist painters. In 1884 the first exhibitions of the Salon des Indépendants were held (they ‘stole’ the term ‘Indépendants’ from the Impressionists). In the years 1883-85 there were several international and regional exhibitions wherein several Impressionists joint, partly organized by Durand-Ruel. The question remains: With so many alternatives why did they organize their own exposition again in 1886?
The 8th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1886:
The 8th ‘impressionist’ exposition in 1886 had 17 +1hc = 18 partakers exhibiting about 301 works (see slideshow), which is much more than the 246 numbers of the (inaccurate) catalogue. Just half of the art-works exhibited were oil paintings. Many aquarelles, pastels, drawings and engravings were exhibited. Comtesse Rambure was mentioned in a review, but not in the catalogue (=hc) (R5,p151). Lucien Pissarro (32x), Morisot (29x), Camille Pissarro (28x) and Rouart (27x) showed the most works. 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). Namely Un Dimanche à la Grande-Jatte↓ of Seurat was reviewed by the art-critics. Redon displayed 15 drawings in a separate corridor (R2,p439). Degas exhibited a serie of nude pastels. Camille Pissarro and Degas were the principal organizers (R2,p421; R5,p151). Guillaumin, Cassatt and Morisot also had an active role (R2,p423-425;R44,p140;R68,p105). This exposition wasn’t only independent of the Salon, but also of the art-dealers who controlled the art-market (R2,p421). Monet and Renoir choose to exhibit at the Georges Petit gallery, they were joined by Raffaëlli against who in 1881 and 1882 was so much opposition (R2,p422). This exposition again had the neutral term ‘8e exposition by… (names of the partaking artists)’.
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.
Which 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.
My main sources are Moffett (1986=R2=aR7), Berson (1996=R90), Dayez (1974=R87), 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 links for practical hints and abbreviations and for the subscription of the paintings.
Additional references (=aRx):
- www.culture.gouv.fr//les_huit_expositions_impressionnistes (info in French on the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions; =iR23)
- www.magrasku.de (info in German on the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions; =iR59)
- laviemoderne.it (info in Italian on the 1st ‘impressionist’ exposition; =iR34)
- es.wikipedia.org (info in Spanish on the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions; =iR62)
- parisinsidersguide.com (limited information and pictures on the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions connected with tourist information)
- thoughtgo.com/183266 (limited information and pictures on the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions; =iR417)
- archive.org//t7cr6bg0d (Online version of Moffett: The New Painting, 1986 =R2=iR19)
- worldhistory.org//1874-86 (more extended article by Mark Cartwright (2022/05/18) on the 8 ‘impressionist’ expositions; =iR418)
Recommanded citation: “8 ‘impressionist’ expositions, 1874-86, general info. Last modified 2023/11/25. https://www.impressionism.nl/expositions-general-info/.”