Behind the Impressionist concept of an artist, I believe lays the foremost way for all to engage with art.
The Impressionist artist was a unique type of person. He was very much more than an artist for he required specialist skills. In fact there was a group, a subsection within the movement, who barely spoke of themselves as artists alone. They were the flâneur: an exclusive selection of pseudo-gentry with enough dosh to not work, but to spend their days roaming, looking. Looking for nothing in particular, and thus always successfully finding things of interest.
They were the artist-observer and in this concept was founded a new art that was both more spontaneous and documentary. These were no longer composed portraits and scenes; and no longer people and places documented how those inhabiting it wished, but how the on-looker happened to find them.
In contrast to the flâneur, is the badaud (the clue is embedded in the suffix), also in Victor Fournel ’s Ce qu’on voit dans les rues de Paris, 1858, who was a literary concomitant of Degas and Manet, and all of whom were complying flâneurs. The badaud live in a world where things inessential or lacking in appropriacy to that very moment are lost, unnoticed.
At the birth of modernity, here is a thoroughly contemporary idea for us today. For we are surrounded by imagery constantly that every piece is desperate to capture our attention, and inversely becomes even less doted upon. The same applies with photography; the creative medium loses its significance when happy snappy shots are so regularly taken on phones and uploaded to social networking sites. Imagine the time when paintings in gallery in the major cities, or frescos and altarpieces on the walls of the churches were the only visual produce. How much more precious would these be?
I’d love to restore this interest in art. Yet, I believe it commences with the artist-observer: with a renewed intention in looking. Because once you look, you begin to make visual revelations…creative ideas. And this is the key to enjoying art – allowing yourself to be captured by what you see.