Collection: Paris 1874 Inventing impressionism

 Musée d'Orsay

March 26 to July 14, 2024

150 years ago, on April 15, 1874, the first Impressionist exhibition opened in Paris. “Hungry for independence”, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Morisot, Pissarro, Sisley and even Cézanne decided to free themselves from the rules by organizing their own exhibition, outside official channels: impressionism was born. To celebrate this anniversary, the Musée d'Orsay is presenting some 130 works, and taking a fresh look at this key date, considered the kick-off of the avant-gardes.

What exactly happened in the spring of 1874 in Paris, and what meaning can be given today to an exhibition that has become legendary? “Paris 1874. The impressionist moment” aims to retrace the advent of an artistic movement that emerged in a rapidly changing world.

“Paris 1874” takes stock of the circumstances that led these 31 artists – among whom only seven are now universally renowned – to come together to exhibit their works together. The climate of the period is that of a post-war period, following two conflicts: the Franco-German War of 1870, then a violent civil war. In this context of crisis, artists are rethinking their art and exploring new directions. A small “clan of rebels” paints scenes of modern life, or landscapes in light tones and with a lively touch, sketched in the open air. As one observer notes, "what they seem to be looking for above all is impression."

In “Paris 1874”, a selection of works that appeared at the Impressionist exhibition of 1874 is put into perspective with paintings and sculptures shown at the same time at the Official Salon. This unprecedented confrontation allows us to recreate the visual shock of the works then exhibited by the Impressionists, but also to nuance it, through unexpected parallels and overlaps between the first Impressionist exhibition and the Salon.

The exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay shows the contradictions and the infinite richness of contemporary creation in the spring of 1874, while emphasizing the radical modernity of the art of these young artists. “Good luck!”, encourages one critic, “something always comes out of innovations."

10 products
The Cradle by Berthe Morisot
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Masked Ball at the Opera by Édouard Manet
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Beach House with Flags at Trouville by Eugène Boudin
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The Mother and Sister of the Artist by Berthe Morisot
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House of Père Lacroix by Paul Cézanne
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Orchard in Bloom, Louveciennes by Camille Pissarro
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The Harbor at Lorient by Berthe Morisot
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The Dancer by Auguste Renoir
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At the Races in the Countryside by Edgar Degas
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The Railway by Édouard Manet
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