Late 19th Century Paris was the birthplace of 20th Century artistic modernism and many different artistic movements were inspired by life there. As many of us know, Impressionism was the central artistic development that inspired and influenced artists of the time. Post Impressionism is the umbrella term for the many offshoots from Impressionism, and it includes cubism, fauvism, and pointillism among others. Edouard Cortes and Raymond Thibesart were two artists in late 19th and early 20th Century France who were inspired by and built on Impressionism. They each developed a different tenet of Impressionism. Thibesart developed the Impressionist idea of 'plein air' painting and experimenting with the ability to express the nuances of light and air with paint. Cortes was a Post Impressionist who built on the Impressionist love of depicting the modern city, Paris.
Although many, if not most artists of the time, including Renoir, Signac, Pissarro, and Cezanne, explored 'plein air' painting, perhaps Monet is the painter most often associated and celebrated for this artistic device. His landscapes, including haystacks, water lilies, and light at sunrise or dusk are the paintings most often celebrated for this development in art. He is seen as the grandfather of painting what you see and he helped transform what was accepted as a finished piece by eroding the distinction between sketch and finished work. Thibesart studied 'plein air' painting under Henri Martin, and had a friendship with Monet himself. Thibesart explored the effects of light in the real world, the way it reflects in the water, as can be seen in Le Quai Vert Bruges, where he contrasts dark greens and greys with light blue and white to create the image of the river. He wants to capture the experience of seeing light and how it is affected by water, a bridge, buildings, shadows, and trees. He does this with loose broad brush strokes. Fifteen years later, he adopted a more pointillist style in various celebrated paintings of his from orchards. In this series of works, he painted light and its transformative effect on trees as exemplified by Cherry Blossom and Apple Blossoms in Bloom.
Edouard-Leon Cortes loved the city of Paris and images of Paris make up the majority of his oeuvre. His paintings explore the ever-changing face of the city and they express its modernity in the same way Impressionist paintings did. We may not always remember this now, but in the late 19th Century, cities transformed due to industrialization and changes in the number of agrarian jobs available. There was a large migration into the city, and the city itself grew. The new city was more anonymous than in times past, and Cortes depicts this through his endless crowds on the new expanded Haussmann Boulevards. In his image Place de la Opera, you see a few figures outlined, but most of the details are blurred and obscured. No one figure is defined enough to see details in their face or dress. The crowd almost merges into the buildings themselves, and inspired by the Impressionist precedent, he does a good job at conveying the vastness and movement of the modern city.
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