How the First Impressionist Exhibition of 1874 Came to Be

Painting by Claude Monet

Chris J Ratcliffe / Stringer 

The first Impressionist exhibition took place from April 15 to May 15, 1874. Led by the French artists Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and Berthe Morisot, they called themselves the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Engravers, etc.

Thirty artists displayed 165 works at the photographer Nadar's former studio at 35 Boulevard des Capucines. The building was modern and the paintings were modern: pictures of contemporary life painted in a technique that looked unfinished to the art critics and the general public. And, the works were on sale! Right there. (Although they had to remain on view for the duration of the show.)

Louis Leroy, a critic for Le Charivari, entitled his nasty, satirical review "Exhibition of Impressionists" which was inspired by Claude Monet's painting Impression: Sunrise, 1873. Leroy meant to discredit their work. Instead, he invented their identity.

However, the group did not call themselves "Impressionists" until their third show in 1877. They were also called the "Independents" and the "Intransigents," which implied political activism. Pissarro was the only avowed anarchist.

Participants in the First Impressionist Exhibition

  • Zacharie Astruc
  • Antoine-Ferdinand Attendu
  • Édouard Béliard
  • Eugène Boudin
  • Félix Braquemond
  • Édouard Brandon
  • Pierre-Isidore Bureau
  • Adolphe-Félix Cals
  • Paul Cézanne
  • Gustave Colin
  • Louis Debras
  • Edgar Degas
  • Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin
  • Louis LaTouche
  • Ludovic-Napoléon Lepic
  • Stanislas Lepine
  • Jean-Baptiste-Léopold Levert
  • Alfred Meyer
  • Auguste De Molins
  • Claude Monet
  • Mademoiselle Berthe Morisot
  • Mulot-Durivage
  • Joseph DeNittis
  • Auguste-Louis-Marie Ottin
  • Léon-Auguste Ottin
  • Camille Pissarro
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir
  • Stanislas-Henri Rouart
  • Léopold Robert
  • Alfred Sisley