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The Foreign Painters Who Came to Paris & Fell Under the Spell of French Impressionism Art

Between the 1880s until the outbreak of World War One in 1914, artists from all over the globe were flocking to Paris to attend the prestigious art academies. Although most of them studied traditional art, some of them turned away when they saw the vibrant artworks of the revolutionary French Impressionists. It seems that you either loved or hated French Impressionism art in those days…

John Russell Australian -French Impressionism Art
John Russell Australian -French Impressionism Art

Below are five foreign artists who spent time in Paris and fully embraced French Impressionism art. Unfortunately, many of these artists are virtually unknown even though their incredible talent is so clearly evident. Some of these artists returned to their own countries after spending time in France, bringing with them the new, vibrant style of French impressionism art.

Five Amazing Foreign Artists Who Fully Embraced French Impressionism Art

Konstantin Korovin (1861–1939) the Russian Impressionist

Konstantin Korovin was born in Moscow in a creative home. His mother was a musician and painter. Korovin absorbed all this creativity. The young artist began his studies at 14 years at the prestigious Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. However, despite his obvious talent, he was scorned for his bright colors & careless, crude and daring brushstrokes. He leaves Moscow for St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, but cannot fit into their traditional teaching methods either.

Moskvoretsky Bridge Moscow -  Konstantin Korovin Painting
Moskvoretsky Bridge Moscow – Konstantin Korovin Painting

Korovin Feels at Home with French Impressionism Art

In the late 80s until the early 90s, Korovin visits Paris three times and immediately feels akin with French impressionism. He writes the following words:

“Paris was a shock for me … Impressionists… in them I found everything I was scolded for back home in Moscow.”

Korovin works in Russia as a Stage & Costume Designer

In Russia, Korovin makes a living as a stage and costume designer for major Opera & Theater companies. Korovin departed from traditional stage decor, which only indicated the place of action. Instead he produced stage sets conveying the mood and emotions of the performance.

Korovin’s work is in demand for the best national productions. He produces stage sets for Konstantin Stanislavsky‘s dramatic productions, as well as Mariinsky‘s operas and ballets. During WW1 he is enlisted to work as a camouflage designer for the Russian Army.

Korovin moves to Paris

In 1923 Korovin moves to Paris to cure his heart condition and help his handicapped son. A large exhibition of his works was scheduled but his paintings were stolen and Korovin was left penniless.

For years, he painted Russian winters and Paris boulevards just to make ends meet. Major theaters around the world, including Europe, America, Asia and Australia commissioned him to produced stage designs for many of their theater and Opera productions.

Moulin Rouge, Paris - Painting by Konstantin Korovin Russian Impressionist painter
Montmartre, Paris – Painting by Konstantin Korovin

Konstantin Korovin was a colorist and considered a leading Russian Impressionist. His artworks fuse classical art with impressionism. Korovin died in Paris on September 11, 1939, and is buried in the Russian cemetery in Paris.

John Peter Russell (1858 – 1930) The Australian Impressionist

John Peter Russell was an Australian born painter. After his father died, Russell received a generous inheritance. With this money he left Australia to further his art studies in Europe. Russell first went to study in London, then to Spain and finally moved to the art capital of Europe, Paris.

In Paris, Russell finds himself with French Impressionism Art

In Paris, Russell saw the artworks of the Impressionism painters. Their fresh approach to art spoke directly to him. He began to study the impressionism techniques while hanging out with the young avant garde painters such as Emile Bonnard, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh and others.

John Russell Painting of Vincent Van Gogh
John Russell Painting of Vincent Van Gogh

Belle-Ile-en-Mer, Claude Monet & Impressionism

When the Australian artist tired of the city, he spent time on a picturesque but very rugged French Island off the Brittany coast called Belle-Ile-en-Mer. Here he met the Impressionism painter Claude Monet. The two artists spent time painting together the rocky landscapes and rugged coastline of Belle-Ile. Under Monet’s guidance, Russell’s artistic career flourished.  

The following year, John Russell rented a house in a small medieval town called Moret-sur-Loing. His next door neighbor was the impressionism painter Alfred Sisley. He painted some notable landscapes while living here.

When Russell married in 1888, he settled down in a newly built house on the remote island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer. He preferred the quiet life that the Island offered. The rugged cliffs, rocky landscapes and rough foaming seas provided Russell with more than enough creative inspiration.   

Belle-Ile-en-Mer painting by John Russell
French Impressionism Art by John Russell

Russell travels to the French Riviera

Two years later Russell traveled to the Midi and the French Riviera. He and his family lived in the old town of Antibes and Russell painted some of his best artworks here.

Antibes Landscape by John Russell
Antibes by John Russell – French Impressionism Art
John Russell painting of Antibes - Fauvism style
John Russell painting of Antibes – Fauvism Art

In the summers of 1896 and 1897 Russell painted together with Henri Matisse in Belle-Île. Henri Matisse found the island far too rugged for his liking and fled the island only to return the following year. Auguste Rodin also spent time with the Russell family on this island, but never returned. Rugged life wasn’t for everyone!

Russell leaves France a Heartbroken Man

When Russell’s wife died of cancer in 1908, the heartbroken Australian burned and destroyed several hundred of his paintings. He sold his house on the island and left France for good. In 1912 he remarried an American singer. The couple spent time living in Italy, London and New Zealand.

John Russell painting of his first wife in Belle-Île, 1907 - French Impressionism Art
John Russell painting of his first wife in Belle-Île, 1907

The Australian Finally Returns to Sydney as an unknown Painter

John Peter Russell finally returned to Australia in 1923, buying a home in Watson’s Bay in  Sydney. However Russell received no recognition for his artistic success in Europe, nor did he seek it out. He spent his years in Sydney living a quiet life. He painted but did not seek out the Australian art scene. When he died of a heart attack in 1930, it didn’t matter that he had been friends with the impressionism giants of Europe. He died as a virtually an unknown painter.

Why is the John Peter Russell, the Australian Impressionist so obscure?

Russell was virtually unheard of in Australia for many decades. For the greatest part of his career he lived abroad. Also, during his lifetime, he rarely exhibited as he was not interested in selling but rather painting for himself only.

Today John Russell’s impressionism paintings are showcased  in some very notable art museums. You can view his artworks in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Musee d’Orsay, Musée Rodin in Paris, the National Gallery London, as well as the National Gallery of Australia and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

John Russell painting of trees
John Russell – A painter of French Impressionism Art

Max Liebermann (1847-1935) The German Impressionist

Max Liebermann was born in Berlin. He first studied law and philosophy before becoming an artist. He began art lessons with the painter Carl Steffeck & then enrolled at the Weimar Art School where he studied painting & drawing for about four years.

Max Liebermann - Self Portrait
Max Liebermann – Self Portrait

Liebermann and the Barbizon School

The German artist’s style initially was realism. However in the summer of 1873, Liebermann traveled to France to visit a village near Fontainebleau, south of Paris called Barbizon. Here he spent time with some French artists from the Barbizon School of landscape painting. 

Here Liebermann worked with Jean-Francois Millet, Camille Corot, Charles Daubigny  & others. From them he learned to capture the atmosphere and light onto his canvases while painting landscapes en-plein air (outdoors).

Max Liebermann painting incorporating techniques from French Impressionism Art
Max Liebermann painting – The Yacht Race

Liebermann and French Impressionism Art

From about 1890 onwards, Max Liebermann was becoming more influenced by the French Impressionism painters such as Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Pierre Auguste Renoir. As Liebermann made the transition from Realism to Impressionism, he taught himself to achieve a new interpretation of subjects from everyday life.

You can see the progression of his paintings. The more he concentrated on the Impressionism techniques of capturing light and color, the less he focused on the subject matter itself.

From National Fame to Nazi Denigration

Liebermann was active in the art world of Germany. He pushed for the right of artists to have total freedom in their art, disconnected with politics or ideology. At this stage, his interest in French Impressionism went against the conservatives who viewed it as an offensive art form.

On his 80th birthday, in 1927, Liebermann was celebrated with a large exhibition, declared an honorary citizen of Berlin and received a a cover story in Berlin’s leading illustrated magazine.

Max  Liebermann  painting
Max Liebermann painting

However things changed dramatically a few years later. In 1933, Leibermann resigned from the Prussian Academy of Arts when the academy decided to no longer exhibit works by Jewish artists.

Liebermann died two years later, in 1935, at his home on Berlin. Although Liebermann was famous, his death was not reported in the Nazi controlled media. At his funeral there were no representatives of the Academy of the Arts. However, despite official restrictions by the Nazi Gestapo, more than 100 friends and relatives attended his funeral.

Roderic O’Conor (1860-1940) The Irish Impressionist

Roderic O’Conor was born in Ireland and attended an art school in Dublin. However his artworks only became widely known in Ireland in the late 1950s. This was because most of O’Conor’s art career was spent outside of Ireland, that is in Belgium and France.

After attending art schools in Ireland, O’Connor left for Antwerp to study at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp.

O’Conor Moves to Paris and Experiments with French Impressionism Art

After Belgium, O’Conor moved to Paris to attend the atelier of Charles Carolus-Duran. During this period, O’Connor came in contact with many emerging art movements. He experimented with impressionism and pointillism. O’Conor also spent time at the artists’ colonies in Grez-sur-Loing and Pont-Aven.

Roderic O'Conor of a woman resting
Roderic O’Conor painting

In Pont Aven, O’Conor met the post-impressionist Paul Gauguin. When the two artists first met in 1894,they became firm friends. Later O’Conor joined Gauguin in an exhibition together with Pierre Bonnard, Paul Sérusier and the other Symbolism painters.

O’Conor’s paintings show that he was greatly influenced by Gauguin and Van Gogh. By the early 1890s, he was painting in a post-Impressionist / Fauvist style marked by bold unnatural color and using crude brushwork.

The Irish painter lived a fairly reclusive life (although he was friendly with many British intellectuals living in France). O’Conor was virtually unheard of in the British and Irish art worlds.

In 1933, O’Conor married his partner Henrietta (Renée) Honta, who often modelled for him. The couple lived in both France and Spain.

Roderic O’Conor died in Nueil-sur-Layon, France in March 1940 at the age of 80. It was only after Roderic O’Conor’s death that he became recognized as a leader of Post-Impressionism in the United Kingdom.

Roderic O'Conor landscape
Roderic O’Conor landscape

Emile Claus (1849 – 1924) The Flemish Impressionist

Emile Claus was a Belgian artist who painted mainly in the impressionists style. Claus traveled often during his lifetime, living and painting in Italy, Holland, Spain, England and France.

Haystacks - Emile Claus Impressionism Painting
Haystacks – Emile Claus Impressionism Painting

French Impressionism Art Captures the Attention of Claus

In 1888 he moved to Paris and fell under the influence of the Impressionist painters such as Monet, Sisley, Renoir, and Pissarro. As a result his style transformed from detailed realism into his own version of impressionism, rich with light and colour.

The Flemish artist painted many different subjects such as peasants, farmers working, portraits of elegant ladies, harbor scenes, cities and landscapes.

Emile Claus Painting
Emile Claus Painting (1899)

His most successful and productive years were between 1893 and 1900. Emile Claus’s impressionism paintings were well received at the Brussels and Paris Salons. His paintings won awards and were praised by the art critics.

WW1, Exile & the Changing Art World

When WW1 broke out, Claus fled for London. He painted beautiful impressionism views of Lonson’s bridges, resembling closely to those paintings of Claude Monet just over ten years earlier. In London he kept to himself and did not mix with other artists. Even so, Claus still managed to exhibit his paintings.

Waterloo Bridge London - Emile Claus painting
Waterloo Bridge London – Emile Claus painting

When he returned to Belgium after the war, Claus realized that art world had moved on to Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism. His paintings no longer evoked public interest.

Emile Claus died at home in Astene, East Flanders, in 1924 at the age of 75. His artworks were forgotten for decades after his death.

Eliseu Visconti (1866 – 1944) – The Italian/Brazilian Impressionist

Eliseu Visconti is an obscure name to Italian art historians, despite the fact that he was born near Salerno in Italy. As a child of seven years, the Visconti family fled the unrest in Italy for Brazil.

Eliseu Visconti showed artistic talent in his early years. The Rio de Janeiro High School of Arts and Crafts accepted Visconti as a student and he soon attracted the attention of his teachers. He received many awards for his artworks. Later he was accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts of Rio de Janeiro. For his outstanding paintings, Visconti received a scholarship allowing him the opportunity to attend art courses in Paris for four years.

Eliseu Visconti Painting - Two boys
Eliseu Visconti Painting

Visconti’s Scholarship to Paris

Visconti was 26 years old when he arrived in Paris. He gained entrance into the most prestigious art schools of Paris, such as the Ècole des Beaux Arts, the Academie Julien & the Guérin art school. Visconti then joined and exhibited together with other artists in the Salon de la Nationale des Beaux Arts and at the Salon of the Société of des Artistes Français.

During his years in Paris, Eliseu Visconti was exposed and influenced by all the emerging avant garde art movements such as Impressionism, Pointillism, Symbolism and Art Nouveau. Under the influence of the French Impressionism art movement, Visconti started painting with brighter colors.

Eliseu Visconti Painting - Impressionism style
Eliseu Visconti Painting – Impressionism style

After four years in Paris, Visconti’s time in France ends. He returns to Brazil together with his French girlfriend Louise, who later becomes his wife and companion for life.

Visconti’s Return & Artistic Success in Brazil

When he returns to Brazil, he has many solo exhibitions and is chosen to decorate major Brazilian cultural institutions such as the Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro and the Biblioteca Nacional. He receives commissions to design stationery, lamps, a posters and stamps. Visconti is acknowledged not only for his painting but also for his multi-facet talent in design. Today he is hailed as Brazil’s pioneer of the modern design.

Eliseu Visconti’s artworks are considered national treasures of Brazil. They are on display in public buildings, major art museums, private collections and institutions abroad such as the Brazilian embassy in Washington D.C.

Where to see Eliseu Visconti’s Artworks:

The National Museum of Fine Arts (Museu Nacional de Belas Artes) in Rio owns the largest and most comprehensive Visconti art collection. This collection of 44 artworks, includes Visconti’s oil paintings, drawings and ceramics.

 Eliseu Visconti - The Brazilian Impressionism Painter
Eliseu Visconti – The Brazilian Impressionism Painter

“Art cannot stop. It changes permanently. It pleases now what was once hated. This is evolution and it is not possible to escape its effects. The man does not stop. It always goes on. The futurists, the cubists, are all respectable expressions, groping artists, looking for something they have not yet achieved. They shake, shake, renew. They are therefore worthy of all admiration.” – Quote Eliseu Visconti