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The Color of Light: Impressionists Degas, Monet, Morisot, and Renoir

2 Session Daytime Lecture/Seminar

2 sessions from July 7 to July 14, 2021
Code: 1H0606
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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"In the Dining Room" (detail) by Berthe Morisot, 1886 (Chester Dale Collection/NGA)

Impressionism, one of the most popular styles in the history of art, derives its name from an insult aimed at Claude Monet’s 1872 painting, Impression, Sunrise. Leaving behind the dark colors, smooth surfaces, and subjects approved by the official Salon, the impressionists painted with bright colors, let their brushstrokes show, and focused on scenes of everyday life. In fact, the artists’ goal was to capture an impression of what the eye sees in a fleeting glance.

Art historian Janetta Rebold Benton presents intimate looks at four luminaries of the impressionist school.

Jul 7 Degas and Monet

10–11 a.m.   Edgar Degas (1834–1917) is famous for his depictions of ballerinas—but more often in class and behind the scenes than on stage performing gracefully. Although an Impressionist by reputation, he considered himself a realist.

11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  Claude Monet (1840–1926), key to the founding of impressionism, painted outdoors in order to capture fleeting weather and atmospheric conditions on canvas. He painted with vivid tones using a technique referred to as “broken color,” filling the canvas with dabs of paint that gave the impression of light.

Jul 14  Morisot and Renoir

10–11 a.m.  Berthe Morisot (1841–95) and her friend Mary Cassatt were rare women impressionist painters in Paris. Morisot was admired by the other impressionists for her skill in handling color. Favoring high-value pastel tones, she painted portraits and landscapes.

11:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), one of the original impressionists, was praised for his use of saturated color, radiant light, and sensual candid compositions. The female nude was one of his primary subjects. 

2 sessions

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.