Lecture & Recital: Impressionism in Music, Art and Literature

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As an artistic movement, Impressionism began with an art exhibition of the French painters Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Camille Pissarro in the 1870s, in which their plein air paintings captured their "impressions" of nature, gardens and daily life, with their changing light, color and atmosphere. The discussion will briefly trace the roots of Impressionism with the original, captivating and colorful art work of Renoir and examine the breathtaking work of the great painter Claude Monet in its various stages.

In literature, the movement of symbolism was born at the same time, represented by such French writers as Stephane Mallarme, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. Their work transformed poetry and prose dramatically and an evocative movement was born that would transform the sister art of music later in the 19th century.

Musically, from 1887 on, the great French composer Claude Debussy created new, shimmering compositions that favored modality with imaginative orchestration, irregular rhythms and spontaneity that created atmosphere using a new tonal color palette. His novel  musical style spawned the work of fellow composer, Maurice Ravel, who expanded the aesthetic in his own voice. Special attention will be directed to the collaborative efforts of Debussy and Ravel with writers and painters of their day, and illuminate the means by which all the art forms were interconnected and synergized. 

The second part of the presentation will feature a live performance of Impressionist period music written for solo flute and twentieth century contemporary works for flute influenced by this evocative school. Through viewing art prints and listening to live flute performance of such works as Debussy’s “Syrinx,”  Honegger’s “Danse de la Chevre,” “Piece” by Ibert and two impressionistic compositions by composer Caryn Block, a portrait of impressionism in art and music will be painted for the audience.

Room set-up