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Nine days of Impressionism: November 13, 1872, Impression, rising sun by Claude Monet

This article is taken from the Figaro Hors-série Paris 1874, Impressionisme-Soleil levant, a special issue published one hundred and fifty years after the first impressionist exhibition commemorated by the Musée d'Orsay which brought together, in a striking face-to-face, a wide selection of works which were then revealed to the public.

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Nine days of Impressionism: November 13, 1872, Impression, rising sun by Claude Monet

This article is taken from the Figaro Hors-série Paris 1874, Impressionisme-Soleil levant, a special issue published one hundred and fifty years after the first impressionist exhibition commemorated by the Musée d'Orsay which brought together, in a striking face-to-face, a wide selection of works which were then revealed to the public. To be kept up to date with historical and cultural news, subscribe free of charge to the Lettre du Figaro Histoire.

When he saw it from his window, the sun in the mist and in front of some masts, and the anxiety of catching it rose within him, it came back to him like a packet of spray. His very first stays on the Normandy coast with Boudin first, then Renoir, and Bazille, rest his soul... and Sisley, and Jongkind. Already the urgency to paint, and without a valiant penny. Their stay in Trouville, the summer of 1870. Monet had just married Camille. The supportive looks from the people behind his back as the first wounded were brought back from the front: he was old enough to be mobilized. His desire to paint, even stronger than any patriotism. Jean, so small, and his mother: he no longer had money to provide for them. His departure for London, pushed by Camille, worries that he will change his mind. The sea and the gray sky. His meeting in exile with Daubigny and Paul Durand-Ruel, who became the friend and dealer of the Impressionists. The National Gallery, where they and Pissarro had gone to see how the British had managed to translate so much fog and so little light into painting. And the blur of Whistler. Turner and his views of the Seine had told his heart how much, deep down, he missed France. And then there were rumors of civil war immediately after the armistice. Renoir's letters which recounted the fights, the shootings, the looting, the fires, that the Parisians had eaten the animals of the Jardin des Plantes and had warmed themselves with the trees of the squares and boulevards. The departure for Holland, its innumerable nuances, how to distinguish air from water? Every sunrise was a question: When will they be able to return? Promise of a new day. Urgency to paint, quickly, to live, to exist.

Also read: Michel De Jaeghere: “Impressionism, an aesthetic revolution in the shadow of the old masters”

In the room of the Hôtel du Havre where he is, he sets up his easel and makes his brushes dance, in haste, because every moment the sun changes place. Its color and that of the sky are transformed. How do we fix what’s missing? He thinks of the Japanese prints that all of Paris is snapping up. Their authors have often tried like him to stop the sun, to extend its course on a piece of paper. There is the work of men, the port which is being organized, all these industrial projects which we hear about everywhere, the stations, the ports, the bridges. The teeming and anonymous life that the rising sun shrouds with eternity. Purple smoke, gray and blue mists, masts, cranes and chimneys. Suddenly, a boat and two silhouettes. Shadows on the water and under the sky.

They found Paris teeming with workers, barges, scaffolding. The skeleton of the Tuileries had made a strange impression on him. And Courbet who was in prison! He had found Renoir with pleasure. His works from Holland, so full of sunshine, sold well. Manet found them beautiful. At the end of 1871, they settled in Argenteuil, a fifteen-minute train journey from Saint-Lazare station. Their first real home. He hung his Hokusai prints on the walls, bought for a pittance in Holland, and of which he is so proud. Now that the money is coming in, it is he who pays for his shots, who receives his friends, Renoir, Sisley, Manet. Camille is happier and Jean has round cheeks. And he travels the countryside and the city, on foot, by train, and captures on his canvases the scars of war, and all the forms that reconstruction takes. What also remains, the games of a child, Camille in the garden.

Quickly, a smaller spot for a second boat, a little further to the left, and another, lost in the reflections of the masts, for a third boat a little further away. The reflections of the sun, pink and orange, spread out and then are lost on the water, and all the way to the painter. It is 7:35 a.m. on November 13, 1872. With one breath, Monet calms the anxiety that crushes him every time he tries to stop time. He puts down his brushes without signing or dating what is only a sketch, a sketch of a moment. When two years later it came to providing the very first manifestation of an impressionist group, he hesitated a little before exhibiting it, cautiously and as it was, under the title Impression, rising sun. Without suspecting for a moment the significance that this term would have for the future, nor the emblematic value that his canvas still endorses.

Paris 1874. Impressionism, rising sun, Le Figaro Special Edition. €14.90, available on newsstands and on Figaro Store.

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