I mpression: Sunrise (p. 6) was the prescient title of one of Claude Monet’s paintings shown
in 1874 in the first exhibition of the Impressionists, or as they called themselves then,
the Societe anonyme des artistes, peintres, sculpteurs, graveurs (the Anonymous Society of
Artist, Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers). Monet painted scenes of his childhood hometown
of Le Havre to prepare for the event, eventually selecting his best Havre landscapes for display.
Edmond Renoir, journalist brother of Renoir the painter, compiled the catalogue. He criticised
Monet for the uniform titles of his works, for the painter had not come up with anything more
interesting than View of Le Havre. Among these Havre landscapes was a canvas painted in the
early morning depicting a blue fog that seemed to transform the shapes of yachts into ghostly
The painting also depicted smaller boats gliding over the water in black silhouette,
and above the horizon the flat, orange disk of the sun, its first rays casting an orange path
across the sea. It was more like a rapid study than a painting, a spontaneous sketch done in oils
– what better way to seize the fleeting moment when sea and sky coalesce before the blinding
light of day? View of Le Havre was obviously an inappropriate title for this particular painting,
as Le Havre was nowhere to be seen. “Write Impression,” Monet told Edmond Renoir, and in
that moment began the story of Impressionism.