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date: 02 December 2020


  • Jann Pasler


A philosophical, aesthetic and polemical term borrowed from late 19th-century French painting. It was first used to mock Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, painted in 1873 and shown in the first of eight Impressionist exhibitions (1874–86), and later to categorize the work of such artists as Manet, Degas, Pissarro, Sisley, Renoir, Cézanne and Regnault. ‘Impressionist’ also describes aspects of Turner, Whistler, the English Pre-Raphaelites and certain American painters, as well as the literary style of Poe and the Goncourt brothers, and the free verse and fluidity of reality in symbolist poetry.

The word ‘Impressionism’ did not appear in conjunction with a specific musical aesthetic until the 1880s (although it had been used earlier in titles of travel pieces and descriptions of 19th-century programme music). Perhaps referring to the Pièces pittoresques of Chabrier, a friend of the painters and collector of their work, Renoir spoke to Wagner in 1882 of ‘the Impressionists in music’. More importantly for historians, the secretary of the Académie des Beaux Arts used the word in ...

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Revue musicale
Musical Quarterly
Bulletin français de la S.I.M. [also Mercure musical and other titles]
Rivista musicale italiana