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  • Writer's pictureAnn Saul

The Definition of Impressionism

Factory on the Banks of the Oise, Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône

1873 Williamstown (Mass) Clark Art Institute

 PDR 300

 One warm spring day, Pissarro took his easel to the banks of the Oise River and made a painting that is archetypical of the Impressionist movement. It contains nearly all of the characteristics commonly associated with the Impressionist style: the lavish portrayal of sunlight; the consciousness of the changing weather as grey clouds crowd the intense blue sky; the presence of modernity in the new factories lining the bank of the Oise River; and the immediacy of the scene which bespeaks en plein air painting.

The painting itself has a classic composition divided almost equally between the sky and the earth with the river dwindling away on the right side. The water, still as a mirror, reflects the smokestacks and buildings on the other side and connects them with the freshness of the spring flowers in the right foreground. The factory, a distillery, had just been completed in 1872. The white building with the small smokestack is still there along with a few of the small buildings.

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