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Atelier in the Batignolles
Henri Fantin-Latour (1836–1904)
Atelier in the Batignolles, 1870
Oil on canvas, 68 1/2" x 81 7/8"
Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 729)
NOTE: This painting was NOT a part of the exhibition Renoir Landscapes: 1865–1883. It is included in these materials to provide supplementary information.
This painting shows a group of artists – painters, writers and musicians – gathered in the studio of Henri Fantin-Latour. Édouard Manet sits at the center of the group in front of an easel with paintbrushes and palette in hand. Manet was regarded by many of the Impressionist painters as the leader of the avant-garde and an inspiration to modernist painters, though Manet did not identify himself as an Impressionist. A few of the artists gathered around Manet were part of the early circle of Impressionist painters including Renoir (silhouetted by the picture frame), Frédéric Bazille (the tallest figure, standing at the right with his hands clasped behind him) and Claude Monet (at the far right edge of the composition).

The Impressionists are known, not so much for having a particular style of painting, but for their departure from the generally accepted academic painting tradition. The name "Impressionism" was coined by art critic Louis Leroy after he viewed the first Impressionist Exhibition in 1874. He intended the term as a criticism of the art shown in the exhibition that, to Leroy, appeared unfinished. The Impressionists held independent exhibitions because many of their works were deemed unsophisticated and without artistic merit and were therefore rejected from the Salon, the official annual art exhibition in Paris. In all eight Impressionist Exhibitions were held between 1874 and 1886, although Renoir only willingly participated in the first three exhibitions (his art dealer, Paul Durand-Ruel, submitted paintings by Renoir to the seventh Impressionist Exhibition against the artist’s wishes).

Like many Impressionist painters, Renoir often chose modern life as the subject for his art. Paintings such as La Grenouillère and Les Grands Boulevards demonstrate this interest in modern leisure and activity. In addition, landscapes were a popular subject among Impressionist painters because they could be done outdoors, or in plein air. Renoir’s loose, feathery brushwork and use of bright color to represent light and atmospheric effects are artistic techniques employed by many Impressionist artists. However, not all artists painted using these new, experimental techniques. In this painting, Fantin-Latour follows the accepted standards of academic painting. The careful positioning of the figures, clearly defined details, rich color and deep shadows are all features associated with academic painting of the period, and contrast dramatically with the styles of Impressionist artists.
 

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