Claude Monet- Sunrise, The Impressionist Insult - 5.0 out of 5 based on 2 votes

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

This is the painting that is considered to be the source of the word “Impressionist:”

Claude Monet, Impression, Sunrise, 1872, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

More specifically, the term “Impressionist” was created by journalist and playwright Louis Leroy as an insult inspired by Monet’s painting. In the April 25, 1874 edition of the Charivari journal, Leroy published an imaginary dialogue in which he ridiculed Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, suggesting that the title was very good because the painting was indeed impressively impressionistic, that is to say extremely vague and not precise enough. Here is an extract from Leroy’s article, with a translation:

“— Que représente cette toile? Voyez au livret.

— Impression, soleil levant. 

— Impression, j’en étais sûr. Je me disais aussi, puisque je suis impressionné, il doit y avoir de l’impression là-dedans… Et quelle liberté, quelle aisance dans la facture ! Le papier peint à l’état embryonnaire est encore plus fait que cette marine-là…”

“ What’s this painting about? Look at the booklet.”

Impression, Sunrise.

“Impression — I knew it. I was thinking that since I’m impressed, there must be some impression in there. And the draftsmanship is so free, so effortless! Sketches for wallpaper are more developed than that seascape.”

The rest of Leroy’s article, which can be read here in French, is just as sarcastic and contemptuous, echoing the views of a large part of the French public of the 1870s, who dismissed the Impressionists as worthless. History, however, decided otherwise, and the word that was born as an insult grew to be the name of one of the most influential movements in Western arts.