Despite its acceptance in art history and its frequent appearance on commercial products like chocolate and umbrellas today, Impressionism hasn’t always been a popular style of art. This change from obscurity to prominence makes writing about the movement an interesting topic for exploration.
This essay approaches how Impressionism came to be written about as it is today by examining the factors that contributed to the change – the retroactive acknowledgement of the movement’s significance, and its appeal to modern audiences – and how these factors have impacted upon specific aspects of current scholarship. Current writing places emphasis upon the “rebel narrative” of the Impressionist movement.
In some current writing, critical reviews contemporary to the early exhibitions of the Impressionists have been misused as a source of historical evidence, in order to support this narrative without compromising its entertainment value to audiences who aren’t interested in deeper examination of critical literature.
Since its acceptance by critics in the 20th Century, Impressionism has been incorporated into the history of modern art though affirming the importance of Impressionism. Some writers have done so by creating a strong link between Impressionism and the artist Manet, and in some cases, this has been prioritised over clarity and honesty of information.
As a result of how writing about Impressionism has developed to emphasise the importance of the movement, the selection of artists most often called “the Impressionists” has been based on their significance, rather than the classification being used to accurately describe the style and aims of their artworks. These elements demonstrate how scholarship on the historical art of the Impressionists has been shaped into its current state by the demands of the writing commercially and academically.