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Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872.

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On April 15, 1874, a group of French artists who called themselves the Société Anonyme des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, etc. did what none of their peers in the Parisian art world had done before: They organized their own exhibition. Held in a vacant studio on the Boulevard des Capucines for four weeks with an admission fee of one franc, the show featured 165 works by 30 artists, including Claude Monet’s 1872 Impression, Sunrise, a pulsating, highly saturated picture rendered in quick, visible brushstrokes.

Louis Leroy, an art critic for the magazine Le Charivari, was not a fan of this painting, nor of any others in the show. He made fun of Monet’s title, writing sarcastically in his review: “I was just saying to myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in the picture…and what freedom! What ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its formative state is more finished than this seascape!” He then headlined his scathing critique “Exhibition of the Impressionists,” implying that all artists in the show—which also included works by Edgar DegasCamille Pissarro, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir—were only capable of painting simplistic “impressions” of the world.

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