The Impressionists, a closely-knit group of artists, met regularly at small restaurants such as the Cafe Guerbois, where they discussed painting and stressed the need for recording momentary sensations on the canvas and the importance of spontaneity. Manet's refreshingly direct look at life and his spontaneous yet monumental translation of what he saw into paint earned him the position as their unofficial leader. Though he regarded himself as a Realist, and never exhibited with the Impressionists, Manet strongly supported their choice of subject matter.
(1870s - 1890s)
Everywhere that people gathered, especially for amusement and pleasure, became a place that the Impressionists painted: streets and cabarets; views down boulevards and across rivers; people at work or at leisure. The Impressionists also looked at landscape, painting whole paintings, not merely sketches, directly out-of-doors. They wanted to record how the eye really sees, depicting figures cut off or caught in spontaneous movement and seen from unusual vantage points. Above all, they wanted to paint in such a way that the brush marks captured not only the movement of light on the surface but also the constant motion of all life.
In 1874, the Impressionists banded together as the Societe anonyme des artistes peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs. Just before the annual Salon of 1874, they gave a public exhibition of their work in a Paris studio. Monet's painting Impression: Sunrise was first exhibited there. Monet's painting gave the group its name, coined in derision by a critic shortly after the exhibit. Despite the financial failure of their first exhibition, the Impressionists continued to exhibit together until 1886.
contributed by Gifford, Katya