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How to Date an Impressionist

NOTE:  This article, due to the specificity of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, will treat both art movements together under the umbrella of Impressionism.  My apologies to Art History.

Last week, I gave some advice on how to date a Postmodernist.  Some people found these tips extremely helpful in their relationships, but still others called on me, requesting help with other types of people.  Particularly, my cousin asked me to help him woo an Impressionist beauty.  How could I not help?

Let’s begin like we did before with the definition of Impressionism, according to Dictionary.com:

1. Fine Arts .

  •  ( usually initial capital letter ) a style of painting developed in the last third of the 19th century, characterized chiefly by short brush strokes of bright colors in immediate juxtaposition to represent the effect of light on objects.
  •  a manner of painting in which the forms, colors, or tones of an object are lightly and rapidly indicated.
  •  a manner of sculpture in which volumes are partially modeled and surfaces roughened to reflect light unevenly.
2. a theory and practice in literature that emphasizes immediate aspects of objects or actions without attention to details.
3. a late-19th-century and early-20th-century style of musical composition in which lush harmonies, subtle rhythms, and unusual tonal colors are used to evoke moods and impressions.

The Japanese Footbridge, Claude Monet, MoMA

Because of the nature of Impressionism, I’m not going to give you rules on how to approach Impressionists.  I will, however, give you a few suggestions.

Suggestion One: Take her/him to an art museum.  But make sure you go to a museum that showcases work by Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir, etc.  An Impressionist will look at these artists in a paternal way, particularly Manet.  If you live near The Courtauld Gallery in London, take your date to see A Bar at the Foiles-Bergère.  Your Impressionist date will marvel at Édouard’s masterpiece and your masterful knowledge of Art History.  Plane tickets too expensive for a first date?  The Met’s Impressionism and Post-Impressionism wing houses the beautiful By The Seashore by August Renoir and van Gogh’s famous self-portrait.  Museums are really the place to begin your relationship with the Impressionist, because you will be able to understand the Art History that comprises your date’s artistic beliefs.

Suggestion Two: Buy a coloring book and color outside the lines.  This is great practice in seeing how well you work together as a couple.  Given the picture already provided, what visions do you have for the ways in which colors could elicit the emotions best?  How do these colors interact with each other?  Does your date’s understanding of color and emotion correspond sufficiently to your understanding of them?  Can you make this coloring book Art?  I recommend silly subjects like flower fairies and garden gnomes to begin with, then work your way through dinosaurs into Disney.  By the time you’re coloring in Tiana kissing the frog, you’ll be able to use your joint understanding of color to create the chartreuse pallor on Tiana’s face that show how disgusted she is.

Suggestion Three: Learn the difference between Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.  How does Impressionism grow into Post-Impressionism?  How does that then become Modernism (then Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, Surrealism, etc)?  Impressionists are a century ahead of the cutting edge, and learning the history of the original movement in Art History can only help you to understand your Impressionist girlfriend/boyfriend.  You can have a conversation about how this:

Dancers Practicing at the Barre, Edgar Degas, the Met

Became this:

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp, SF MoMA

Scary progression, huh?  Thank you, Art History.

Suggestion Four: Do everything in “plein-air.”  Plein-air, which is fancy French for outside, is key to the majority of Impressionist paintings.  The concept of taking your canvas and your paints outside was so new to the 19th century, that it became the kind of signature for Impressionist painters.  The Impressionist masters (except, I believe, Degas… or was it Renoir?), would scout out locations that they wanted to paint, and then go outside and plop down in front of them.  This was to capture the feel of being in the location instead of in the artist’s studio imagining the location.  Plein-air is theoretical realism with visual abstraction.  So instead of watching a TV show about life, go do things in plein-air.

Suggestion Five: Take off your glasses.  This will be less easy for people with contacts, and impossible for people with “perfect” vision.  But if you really want to get into an Impressionist’s head, and you have the capability to see the world in blurs and swirls of color and light, then do it.  Take off your glasses and describe how the shades and nuances of the green hills blend and roll together, instead of being rigidly connected to the individual types of trees.  Find patterns in the stars at night, and describe the feeling of their glow as candlelight sprinkled through a pepper shaker onto a bowl of blue soup.  Take off your glasses and explain the softness of your girlfriend/boyfriend’s face as being like early cinematography.

Judy Garland as Manuela in The Pirate

Suggestion Six: Learn French.  Now, I’m not a huge supporter of the “French is the most romantic language in the world” camp.  But for your Impressionist interest, what better language for love than the language of the Impressionist masters?  So pull out your Carla Bruni CDs, cook up some eclairs, find your fanciest French red wine, and immerse yourself in faux-French.

Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley, Paul Cézanne, the Met

Suggestion Seven: When going to the movies, go see artistic films.  Yes, that means more Wes Anderson.  If you’re going to be going to current films, of course (Moonrise Kingdom is still in theaters).  But my real movie suggestion would be to watch lots of classic film.  My mother recommends A Room With a View.  I would recommend How to Steal a Million.

Peter O’Toole, Audrey Hepburn, and a fake van Gogh = Best. Movie. Ever.


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