Exhibition Walkthrough

The artworks in the Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper exhibition are organized by artist. As you walk through the exhibition, you will find it roughly organized chronologically, from the precursors of Impressionism to the Impressionists themselves, and then to the Post-Impressionists; each group of artists built upon their predecessor’s innovations.

This walkthrough gives you an overview of the artists, in the order they are presented in the exhibition, and briefly explains how they contributed to the movement through their works on paper, along with discussion ideas to use in the galleries with your class.

Eugene Boudin (1824–1898)

Most well known for being the teacher of a young Claude Monet, Eugene Boudin was an established artist in his own right whose work paved the road for later Impressionists. His interest in nature, light (particularly that of the sea), and upper-middle-class society and his quick, sketchy style capturing specific scenes were influential on future artists.

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Claude Monet (1840–1926)

The famous Claude Monet was also a fine draftsman, highly skilled in drawing. Late in life, he took a trip to London and lost his painting materials on the way; he turned to pastels to create Waterloo Bridge and Charing Cross Bridge, both of which are featured in the exhibition.

» Compare these pieces with the painting of Waterloo Bridge in the Museum’s Collection: what is different and similar? Does the view, colors, or mood of the scene change when depicted in pastels versus oil?

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Edgar Degas (1834–1917)

Edgar Degas’ favored subject matter—seascapes, the ballet, and nudes—figure prominently in his work on paper. By layering colors, different kinds of marks, and fixative, he created dense drawings and complex, deliberate compositions.

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Édouard Manet (1832–1883)

The small watercolors by Édouard Manet featured in this exhibition are in contrast to his revolutionary, envelope-pushing work in oil—but his delicate handling of color and the chance to view his handwriting make these works on paper worth a peek.

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Berthe Morisot (1841–1895)

The sketchy watercolors of Berthe Morisot, Manet’s sister-in-law, portray scenes of upper-middle-class society in strokes both dry and saturated with liquid, capturing the essence of light and feeling in each moment.

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Federico Zandomeneghi (1841–1917)

An Italian so taken with French Impressionism that he moved permanently to Paris in 1874, Federico Zandomeneghi layered pastels with many small, vertical strokes, creating thick, dense colors. He was mainly interested in depicting nudes and interior scenes with women, and was much inspired by Degas.


Mary Cassatt (1844–1926)

Mary Cassatt, beloved Post-Impressionist, used similar subject matter on paper as she did on canvas: touching images of mothers and their children, intimate and personal.

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Eva Gonzalès (1847–1883)

Eva Gonzalès’ work is sketchier and a little tighter than Cassatt’s, but similarly intimate. In the work represented here, Gonzalès used colored paper to heighten the effect of her chosen palette.

Camille Pissarro (1830–1903)

Camille Pissarro focused on landscapes. He was interested in the light during the different seasons and consistently experimented with mark-making. As such, his works on paper evoke a sense of temperature, from an icy cold frost to the warmth of a summer day. A natural teacher, he mentored the younger Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Late in life he moved to the countryside to depict the life of peasants and escape the capitalism in the city.

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was in many ways a traditional artist, but he was still interested in and aligned himself with Impressionism and its avant-garde ideas. Using a variety of media, he layered different kinds of marks to create his landscapes and compositions of young women.

» Your students should definitely check out Renoir’s Bathers with Crab painting, on loan to the Museum from the Carnegie Museum of Art. The painting is at the Museum thanks to the Green Bay Packers winning Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers! The Museum bet its Gustave Caillebotte painting, Boating on the Yerres, which would have gone to Pittsburgh if the Packers had lost. Ask your students: What work of art would they have suggested we bet? Look at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s website. Is there a piece they would have asked for instead?

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Jean-Louis Forain (1852–1931)

An illustrator as well as a painter, Jean-Louis Forain depicted scenes of everyday life—from brothels to theatres—in his highly detailed style. He used gouache (a dense, opaque kind of watercolor) to make bright images of modern life.

Georges Seurat (1859–1891)

Georges Seurat, famous for pointillism and color theory, here surprises us with his monochromatic works on paper. But there is a connection: the varying pressure of his mark-making shows his interest in the texture of paper and the handling of value. Use his works to talk to your students about the principles of art, and have them try to emulate his technique.

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Odilon Redon (1840–1916)

Odilon Redon’s dreamy, eerie worlds are just as haunting on paper as they are on canvas. Even his tiny, detailed flowers are little universes that invite close examination.

» Students might create a story about the characters in these pieces: What are they thinking? What could the colors or lack of colors represent?

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Albert-Charles Lebourg (1849–1928)

Albert-Charles Lebourg was known for his “fusain” works, created entirely out of black chalk.

Paul Signac (1863–1935)

Paul Signac’s watercolor landscapes show a clear connection to the well-known work of Seurat. It was with Seurat that he developed “Neo-Impressionism,” pioneering pointillism. Signac also wrote a book on Neo-Impressionism, becoming, with his friend’s early passing, an unintended spokesperson for the movement.

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Paul Gauguin (1848–1903)

Once a stockbroker, Paul Gauguin left the business world to pursue art full-time, eventually moving to Tahiti, where he created works on and with unusual materials. Encouraged by Van Gogh to create art that expressed feelings rather than simply represented what was seen, Gauguin made art that was unique and full of untraditional marks and symbols.

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Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

Vincent van Gogh was a troubled man but prolific artist, and it was through his works (in pen, brush, chalk) that he represented thoughts or feelings from deep within. His mark-making and use of color served to express his emotions.

» Look closely with your students at Van Gogh’s marks: What mood do they get from the work of art? What mood do they think Van Gogh was in when he made it? What do they see in the work that makes them think that?

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Paul Cezanne (1839–1906)

Paul Cezanne’s love of landscapes comes through in his works on paper. In oil the artist built up layers and created blocks of color to describe a scene, often of his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire; on paper he used sparse lines and pale washes of color to provide just enough context for the viewer.

» Ask your students to create an image of their favorite place using only the most essential lines and marks—you might even give them a limit on the number of lines they can use, or talk with them about using white space.

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec used a variety of media on the same sheet of paper to depict scenes of theaters, performances, and cafés. Through his confident mark-making, he was able to express the distinct character and personalities of the figures in his compositions.

» Ask your students to look closely at one figure from one of his pieces, and then write a monologue from that person’s point of view.

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