What’s So Radical About Impressionism?

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The word “Impressionism” makes most people think of beautiful, sunlit paintings of the French countryside, glorious gardens and lily ponds, and fashionable Parisians enjoining life in charming cafes. But in 1874, when the men and women who came to be known as the Impressionists first exhibited their work, it was considered shocking and outrageous by all but the most to forward-thinking viewers. Why did these young artists cause such an uproar?

The exhibition and its accompanying classroom educational guide show how their radical ideas, techniques, and subjects broke time-honored rules and traditions of art in late 19th-century France. The exhibitions features twelve large-scale photo reproductions of works from the VMFA collection. Paintings by Eugène Boudin, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Pierre August Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Vincent van Gogh are contrasted with an earlier, more traditional style as examplified by Nicholas Poussin.

The classroom educational guide, Outside and Out of the Box: A Guide to Impressionism, accompanies the exhibition and provides educators with lesson plans, additional background information, and six posters to use in the classroom. While this exhibition is SOL-based and perfect for K-12 students, anyone interested in the art of the Impressionists will enjoy the selection of works. The creation and distribution of this exhibition is supported by the Paul Mellon Fund.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has a variety of exhibitions available for statewide travel. For additional information on VMFA and its statewide resources, please phone 804.204.2681 or e-mail edpartner@vmfa.museum

LIMITED Security
Loan Period: 4 to 6 Weeks
Fee: Free

Code Number: GA-110
Size of panels: 16” X 20”
Running Feet: Approx. 20′

To supplement the exhibition, the following related resources available through the Statewide Partnership Program are recommended. For more information or to schedule a speaker, workshop or media resource, call 804.204.2681or email edpartner@vmfa.museum.

Teacher Workshops: They All Came to Paris: An American Fascination


Cezanne in Provence
Claude Monet
Degas and the Dance
Edgar Degas
Edouard Manet
From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec
Impressionist Paintings
The Impressionist Surface
Linnea in Monet’s Garden
Little Dancer Aged 14
Mary Cassatt: A Brush with Independence
Paris 1900
Paul Cezanne
Paul Gauguin
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre
Vincent Van Gogh

VHS Cassettes:
American Impressionists and Realists
A Day in the Country
Degas: Beyond Impressionism
Impression: Painting Quickly
Impressionists on the Seine
In a Brilliant Light: Van Gogh
In Open Air: American Impressionists
Monet’s Garden at Giverny
Van Gogh: A Stroke of Genius
Van Gogh’s Van Goghs
What is Impressionism?

Outside and Out of the Box: A Guide to Impressionism resource portfolios (while supplies last)