Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise)
1873 (210 Kb); Oil on canvas, 48 x 63 cm (19 x 24 3/8"); Musee Marmottan, Paris
Monet painted this picture of the sun seen through mist at the harbour of Le Havre when he was staying there in the spring of 1872. A sketch quickly executed to catch the atmospheric moment, it was catalogued as Impression: soleil levant when exhibited in 1874 in the first exhibition of the group (as yet described simply as the Société Anonyme des Artistes-Peintres). The word `Impression' was not so unusual that it had never before been applied to works of art but the scoffing article by Louis Leroy in Le Charivari which coined the word Impressionnistes as a general description of the exhibitors added a new term to the critical vocabulary that was to become historic. It was first adopted by the artists themselves for their third group exhibition in 1877, though some disliked the label. It was dropped from two of the subsequent exhibitions as a result of disagreements but otherwise defied suppression.
Monet's Impression was not in itself a work that need be regarded as the essential criterion of Impressionism, vivid sketch though it is. There are many works before and after that represent the aims and achievements of the movement more fully. Yet it has a particular lustre and interest in providing the movement with its name.