The Art of Impressionism


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Painting Technique and the Making of Modernity

Anthea Callen


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This magnificent book is the first full-scale exploration of Impressionist technique. Focusing on the easel-painted work of Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Cézanne, Cassatt, Morisot, Caillebotte, Sisley, and Degas in the period before 1900, it places their methods and materials in a historical perspective and evaluates their origins, novelty, and meanings within the visual formation of urban modernity.

Drawing on scientific studies of pigments and materials, artists’ treatises, colormens’ archives, and contemporary and modern accounts, Anthea Callen demonstrates how raw materials and paintings are profoundly interdependent. She analyzes the material constituents of oil painting and the complex processes of “making” entailed in all aspects of artistic production, discussing in particular oil painting methods for landscapists and the impact of plein air lighton figure painting, studio practice, and display. Insisting that the meanings of paintings are constituted by and within the cultural matrices that produced them, Callen argues that the real “modernity” of the Impressionist enterprise lies in the painters’ material practices. Bold brushwork, unpolished, sketchy surfaces, and bright, “primitive” colors were combined with their subject matter—the effects of light, the individual sensation made visible—to establish the modern as visual.

Anthea Callen, professor-elect in the department of the history of art, University of Nottingham, was formerly research professor in the history of art, De Montfort University, Leicester. She is also the author of The Spectacular Body: Science, Method, and Meaning in the Work of Degas, published by Yale University Press.

“[A] convincingly documented exposition of the ways in which early-19th-century innovations in the marketing of artists’ materials affected no only the practice of painting but aesthetic attitudes, as well.”—F. A. Trapp, Choice

“Readers interested in the technical considerations involved in the material act of making an oil painting will find this study highly informative. . . . The reader leaves Callen’s work with an awareness of what thoughtful, painstaking artists the Impressionists were.”—James P. Gilroy, French Review

“[A]n excellent general primer about the making of oil paintings. The book is published in an extra large format designed to accommodate the long, detailed text and the marvelous illustrations of details of pictures.”—Svetlana Alpers, Key Reporter

“Of all the outings the Impressionist painters have had in the past decade, Anthea Callen’s magnum opus is arguable not only the most intensely felt, but also one of the most valuable for its scholarship. . . . The Art of Impressionism is a big book, a major book, in every sense.”—Julian Freeman, The Art Book
ISBN: 9780300084023
Publication Date: December 11, 2000
256 pages, 9 1/2 x 11 1/2
120 b/w + 150 color illus.
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Art, Anatomy and the Modern Male Body

Anthea Callen

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