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    [Impressionists]. Jules Laforgue. Autograph Manuscript.
    Six pages in French, one page 8" x 11.5", five pages, 8" x 12.75, n.p. [Berlin?]; n.d. [circa 1884]. This manuscript is titled 'Les Impressionnistes' [The Impressionists]. The contents are paraphrased below.

    Written for German readers who know of Impressionism only what they saw at Gurlitt's [?] exhibition, which is the genesis for the following lines. Are the 25 paintings labeled 'impressionist' at Gurlitt's all impressionist? No.

    Among them, which are the most purely impressionist, the ones that best exemplify, in the absence of more representative works, to the explanation that follows below? [Illegible] by Monet and [illegible] St. Martin by Pissarro. Slightly less orthodox is [illegible] by Degas (painted already 20 years ago, Degas is considered today as the master and most pure of the group) and the two paintings by Renoir. The rest, as a whole, is but a compromise between modernism and impressionism.

    First, impressionists are still but a minority in French painting, a group almost without a right to citizenship or to criticize. Official salons reject them (the doors of the triennial salon were closed to Manet, the boss, the initiator, who died a year ago), they're ignored by museums, the institute and established painters consider them invalid, the press, who at first was excited and joked light-heartedly about them, is now collectively silent, and the public, who at first was also excited, now only goes to their annual Exposition d'Indépendant with jaded curiosity, some amateur artists buy their paintings and place them in their homes at the risk of tainting their reputations. The impressionists continue their work and refuse to compromise on their aesthetic, each day making recruits, each year spreading their virus, diluted without a doubt, into the official works of the École.

    Messieurs Charles Ephrussi (Gazette des Beaux-Arts), Théodore Duret (Les Impressionnistes, brochure), Joris-Karl Huysmans (L'Art Moderne), Philippe Burty (articles in République Française and l'Art), Louis Edmond Duranty (Le Pays des Arts), Émile Zola (Mes Haines), all defended the impressionists within the pages of popular critical publications but none, as far as I know, have attempted a systematic analysis from an optical-physiological standpoint, of the impressionist method, except Paul Bourget in one of his marvelous articles in the Parliament on the occasion of the Exposition des Indépendants in 1881, basing himself on Fechner's law of perceptible minimal differences.
    That analysis is what I will attempt here. I would like to show the rich and firm basis, the raison d'être - natural, human, and universally fertile - that characterize the works which seem, to a distracted onlooker or a conservative critic, the arbitrary and inconsequential fantasy of showy artists who ignore the components of their profession.
    The first principle to establish, the one, which leads to all other principles, is the outdoors, which gave its name to this school. [FOOTNOTE 1: "One says u impressionist /u or u école du plein air /u , or even u école des Batignolles /u , a reference to the Paris neighborhood where, along with Montmartre, could be found the studios, ultimately unnecessary as we will see, of the first neophytes. Jokers even came up with the terms u Intentional School /u and u School of the Pure Task /u . Their annual exhibition occurs without the use of the term artistes peintres indépendants."] The name of the school comes, obviously, from landscape artists (in fact the term at first referred to the landscape artists of the école de Barbizon) [FOOTNOTE 2: "Barbizon is a small village of painters on the outskirts of the forêt de Fontainebleau, depicted in the Goncourt brothers' novel Manette Salomon and featuring a character, Crescent, inspired by the great landscape artist Millet."]. Plein air, in this context, does not simply refer to landscapes but to the entirety of Impressionist painting and means simply: painting people and things in their own settings, such as sunny landscapes, candlelit living quarters, gaslit theater wings, random interior scenes, factories, covered markets, hospitals, etc. The natural, necessary consequences of the plein air principle will serve to explain the concept itself.
    These consequences are twofold, literary and optical.
    Needless to say, the impressionists established their methods through other schools' precedents and incoherent fumblings, not through systematic deduction of a pure principle as I am attempting here.
    The literary consequences, that is, subject and composition, reveal the direct line of descent of impressionism from French and English modernist painters - in terms of subject - and the renewal from Japanese albums - in terms of composition. Time to dispel the faulty notion that impressionism is merely a question of subject, and odd subjects at that, when in fact it is first and foremost an optical revolution. Yes, impressionists are modernist, realist, naturalist, etc. in the sense that they exclusively address modern, daily life. Naturally, this principle of painting beings and things in their setting prevents him from painting classic landscapes or historical, allegorical, and religious paintings. However, impressionists remove themselves from other schools that take modern life as their subject because the latter school sets up. This is where the influence of Japanese albums reveals itself. This indifference comes from the plein air concept. One can only paint something in its setting by having that setting before one's eyes. If the painter, in the course of working, wants to switch or change something about the scene before his eyes, he goes against his principle and against nature. Nothing in real life, lines or colors, is isolated or has value in itself, everything exists in relation to its neighbor. If one moves a figure or modifies a color, everything else must be infinitely changed. How so? According to which laws, which formulas of harmony? One must capture reality in the moment and depict it frankly. The frame of an impressionist painting is therefore like a window upon the flow of visible life; the frame cuts a piece of reality without worrying about cutting a carriage in half along the left border or about a valet carrying a tea tray or about whether a streetlamp or the back of a chair hides the action in the foreground. There is a total disregard for subject and composition. Undeniably, impressionist artists thus far have shown a pronounced predilection for the most insightful subjects of Parisian life and the queerest and absurd of haphazard compositions.
    As for the optical consequences of the principle, they turned two of the Academy's preconceptions on their head: the art of drawing and perspective. With an eye keen as a prism, operating without the conservative lens of the école des Beaux-Arts, his hatred of a studio lit with a 45o angle per the sacred rule, the unscrupulous curiosity of a Parisian modernist, the impressionist has a pure gaze and thus he paints. Let me elaborate.
    In my opinion, linear drawing and by extension theoretical and drawn perspective are prejudices originating with the first sensory experiences of the exterior world. The primitive eye knew only inseparable white light and had no color to aid it in discerning reality and therefore used tactile experiences to bolster the sense of sight. Due to the habitual associations between the sense of touch and sense of sight, these associations became concentrated and passed down as beneficial modifications do, the knowledge of forms passed through from touch to sight and progressed further as the sense of color became refined. The natural explanation for monochromatic statuary and black & white art lies there. From there, kept up by centuries of Renaissance imitations, that is, Greek sculpture, by the juvenile and easy training of the academies that break down life in order to facilitate painting it, into perspective, drawing, composition, coloring, chiaroscuro, etc., kept up also by museums as well as the modern platitude and lie of photographic reproductions, from all this stems, as I say, the dead language that is taught as the way to represent life: drawing. Ultimately, the eye knows only luminous vibrations the same way the ear knows sound vibrations: if the eye has been delayed in its development of a 'color sense' per say, while the ear can effortlessly analyse harmonics, it is because of the appropriation of tactile experiences systematized and perpetuated by the eye.


    Jules Laforgue (1860-1887) was a Franco-Uruguayan poet, often referred to as a Symbolist poet. Critics and commentators have also pointed to Impressionism as a direct influence and his poetry has been called "part-symbolist, part-impressionist." Influenced by Walt Whitman, Laforgue was one of the first French poets to write in free verse. His poetry would be one of the major influences on Ezra Pound and the young T. S. Eliot. His life was cut short in 1887 because of tuberculosis.

    A fascinating review of the Impressionist movement by one whose poetry was influenced by the movement.

    Condition: Usual folds, bit otherwise very good.


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