Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay

By Guy Cogeval, Stéphane Guégan, and Alice Thomine-Berrada

This dazzling collection of more than 100 works by the masters of 19th-century French painting tells the story of a movement that changed the way artists view the world and the way the world views artists.

Birth of Impressionism explores the origins of the “New Painting,” focusing on the tumultuous period of the 1860s and 1870s and the emergence of the Impressionist movement out of the Paris Salon. Lavish reproductions of masterpieces of French art—from the monumental canvases of Adolphe-William Bouguereau to the landscapes and peasant scenes of Jean-François Millet and Gustave Courbet—set the stage for a rich visual narrative that recounts the incubation and evolution of the new Parisian avant-garde. The range of subject matter and techniques reflects the remarkable stylistic diversity of the artists who were part of this revolution.

As in the Parisian art world, Édouard Manet represents in this book the fulcrum between the old guard and the Impressionists. A selection of stunning and controversial canvases, including The Fifer and The Escape of Rochefort, introduce the painter’s progressive concerns. From Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro to Alfred Sisley and Paul Cézanne, each of the principal Impressionists is represented by many beloved favorites. Highlights include Monet’s Gare Saint-Lazare and Rue Montorgueil, Paris; Pissarro’s Red Roofs, Village Corner, Winter Effects; Sisley’s Snow at Louveciennes; and Cézanne’s Gulf of Marseille from L’Estaque. An assortment of compelling artworks records life in the Belle Époque, including Edgar Degas’ renowned images of the ballet and racetrack and Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s delightful The Swing. This selection of landmark paintings evokes the contentious Parisian art world while offering an unsurpassed introduction the art of Impressionism.

For a rich look at the art and artists that evolved from Impressionism, see the companion publication, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay. These volumes may be purchased individually or as a boxed set.


Guy Cogeval is president of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Stéphane Guégan and Alice Thomine-Berrada are curators at the Musée d’Orsay.

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