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The influence of photography in Impressionist paintings

The influence of photography in Impressionist paintings

12/10/2020

1839 was an important year for art as it was the period in which photography was born and this new invention inspired many Impressionist artists and not only. It took time for photography to be perfected as we know it today, but already in the mid-1800s the unique characteristics offered by the shots intrigued the artists of the time who modified their style, using new perspectives, lights and shadows that are typical of photography. 

"Dancers behind the scenes" by Degas, a work created thanks to three photographs

One of the most famous paintings created thanks to the use of the camera is "Dancers Behind the Scenes" by Edgar Degas, an impressionist who was fascinated by this new invention. To make his work in which we can see dancers preparing to enter the scene, Degas first made three plates which he later combined and which allowed him to obtain an image that has become the basis of his work, as we know today. 

This was not the only painting made by Degas from photographs. The painting "After the Bath" dated 1896 was also created using the same technique, as it was the painting in which Jules Perrot can be seen. Other works made with the same technique followed, and it seems that Degas was almost obsessed with photographic technique, so much so that he was so busy studying the lights, shadows, perspectives and other details typical of photography. 

The world of painting was "upset" by the invention of photography and many artists used this new artistic medium to create works that today are invaluable.

Other paintings inspired by photographs

Degas was only one of the first to use photographs in some of his works. Paul Gauguin also exploited photographic images in some cases and the painting "Mother and Daughter" is just one of the many examples, a work created thanks to the presence of a photo taken by Henry Lemasson entitled "Two Women". 

Not even Paul Cezanne was indifferent to this new art. Always in search of perfection, curious and ready to experiment with new techniques, Cezanne found inspiration for the painting "The Bather" taken between 1885 and 1890 in a photograph. This painting is now kept at the MoMA in New York.

Very interesting are also the works of Toulouse- Lautrec: "La Troupe", "Jane Avril" and "Couple in a bar", all made starting from three pics, as well as the famous paintings by Van Gogh that were created having as subjects characters in the photographs. We are talking about the painting in which the artist portrayed his mother (1888) and also about the work in which the Dutch artist represented the Belgian painter Eugene Boch, a canvas kept at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

These are just some of the artists who took inspiration from the art of photography to create some of their most important works, but painting techniques are still influenced by photographs in some cases.

Article by: Aurora Caraman.