The term "impressionism" might today conjure up pleasant associations among art amateurs-- the hypnotic, surreal use of light, bold, stylized brushstrokes and beautiful, inoffensive natural scenes-- but when the term was coined in the 19th century, it was meant to insult and degrade. Artists like Monet, Sisley, Degas and Pissarro mostly succeeded in shocking their contemporaries when they debuted their bold new techniques at independent Paris shows in the 1870s and 1880s, offending the sensibilities of traditionalists yet ushering in what we now recognize as a modern perspective.
If you're interested in deepening your knowledge of this exciting period in art history next time you're in town, get our take on the best impressionist museums in Paris, from the (rightfully) well-trodden Musée d'Orsay to the curiously neglected Marmottan-Monet , the Orangerie, featuring Monet's mesmerizing series of nympheas (pictured above) or Petit Palais. My sense is that it's important to try to see these works for the radical propositions they were, rather than through our contemporary eyes, accustomed as they are to seeing Degas' dancers on placemats or Sisley's foggy morning on mugs.
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