A vast library of exquisite and one of a kind pieces intrigues the viewers as they enter the grand entrance of the Detroit Institute of Art. After several effortless flights of veined marble stairs, the partons are greeted with high ceilings, possibly inspired by Italian renaissance architecture assuming from warm tones and luxurious decorations. Daylight dimly illuminates the grey, milky polished concrete structure, light source coming from high-hung arched windows. The South wing is where I begin my research as the art pieces are somewhat chronologically placed.
After several pieces of medieval, early and high renaissance art, I am greeted by Detroit Industrial Fresco, collections of Diego Rivera’s mural showing many figures in the industrial setting; perhaps during the golden industrial age of Detroit.
As I make my way into the north wing, series of works by Impressionist artists astonishes me. The exhibition placed in north “modern” wing consisted of works by Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Vincent Van Gogh.
All masters in their own rights, these four artists all produced their works during the late 1800s however, they all differ in style and backgrounds. Vincent Van Gogh’s Self Portrait especially encaptures all of my interest. A rather small piece, perhaps five by seven? So much emotion captured in this comparatively little simple piece. Van Gogh’s signature brush strokes full of life and texture combined with light, vibrant yellow and blue paints, cool greyish tan background, incredibly shows a distressed version of himself. In the painting his pupils are dilated, giving off the “crazy mad hatter” eyes with an interpretation of a utterly distasteful self.
As I take a step back to admire the piece from the distance, I wondered, What gave him so much distress? What were their living conditions? How did the realism of the 19th century inspire such an expressive loose form of art? Paris, France during the late 19th century was a time of revolution (both political and artistic), a sort of avant-garde that inspired many activists to change their views and inspired others to do so as well. Arguably, impressionism was an artistic revolution. Rather than art being influenced by a symbol such as notable figures or religious events, Impressionism was one of the earliest paths into modern art as we know. The topic of this analysis will consist of how historical events such as the French Revolution, Leaderships of Napoleon III and the long Depression influenced the birth of Impressionism and how artists such as Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Vincent Van Gogh developed their styles coming out of the movement realism.
To give a brief context, 19th century Europe was not a place where art galleries were common in every city like the modern settings. Artists at the time were bound to salons where they presented their works officially to build their reputations and earnings. These art pieces were selected through the jury’s (Beth, Apart from the salon). The movement, Impressionism changed the century-old system that has been traditionally formulated. The first half of the 19th century consisted of revolutions, upheaval, exchange in power and changes in a different era (first, second republic and second empire). During all of this chaos, during the second half of the 19th century under the leadership of Napoleon III, France was going through reforms that would rather benefit the modern art to flourish.