It is undeniable that what brought about the End of Art was Impressionism. Furthermore, very book will tell you that Monet was the confessed leader of the Impressionists, and that Impressionism was powerfully influenced by - if not derived from - the Barbizon School. Well, what characteristics of the Barbizon School were they which brought about the End of Art, and by what means?

A few days ago I was standing in front of a large collection of Boudins in a small Asian museum, muttering about this problem, when a ten-year-old told me to look at what Monet got from Boudin. So be it; it is beneath my dignity to argue with ten-year-olds, and I suspect that this one had never learned a day's worth of art history in his life. So:

Among the differences between Modern Art and pre-Impressionist art is the concentration of pre-Impressionist art on the object

Rembrandt van Rijn - The Windmill

as something which can be comprehended, analyzed, and classified by the human mind; Modern Art has abandoned the object for the appearance, the perception. The loss of the object causes - and is caused by - the loss of the center of interest of the 'canvas', and the loss of the center of the canvas and the corresponding growth in the possibilities of the edge emphasize the existence of the canvas itself. The canvas is no longer a window on the world.

How does this explain the way in which the emergent virus of modernism passed from Boudin to Monet, and thus to the world?

Eugène Boudin - Oiseme Landscape Near Chartres Claude Monet - The Hotel des Roches-Noires, Trouville

Boudin was a painter of landscapes, mainly seascapes and forest and meadow landscapes; a seascape or a forest or meadow landscape has no dominant object, and no strong center of interest, unless the artist makes them very artificially. The time constraints of plein-air painting also force the artist to record impressions rather than objects and their components, as does the diffuse and often over-bright light usually found outdoors. And if anything makes one conscious of the greater reality of appearance, as opposed to the object, it is the photography with which Boudin experimented. Photography is also an art which makes one very conscious of the 'canvas'.

Thus spake the ten-year-old. And don't blame him if he said "Barbizon" where "Honfleur" would have made more sense. He doesn't know where either of them is.


Spaces, not commas, please!