The French Impressionists exhibition was conceived by Camille Mauclair, a French art critic, a collaborator with the Mánes Association and the author of a book about the history of French Impressionism (in addition to other texts). The exhibition's original scope was more generous, aiming to present the entire evolution of modern French art of the 19th century. However, the plan proved infeasible because some of the artworks were too difficult to bor-row. In his text for the catalogue, F. X. Šalda places Ingres and Delacroix at the beginning of this evolution, although their works were not represented at the exhibition. As in the 1902 Modern French Art show, the paintings were borrowed from French collectors and galleries such as Durand-Ruel & Fils gallery and art dealers Paul Cassirer and Ambrois Vollard.
Works by Honoré Daumier were the earliest at the exhibition. For Šalda, Daumier was “the forefather of Impressionism,” not in terms of painting technique, but in his spiritual ap-proach and his perception of nature. Following on chronologically were paintings by Adolph Monticelli, called by Šalda a “tragic and great figure,” and by Édouard Manet, whom Šalda saw as the most important of the Impressionist group [Šalda 1907a, pp. 11–14]. This shows that in this period, the term “Impressionism” was already rather loose, because Manet did not participate in any of the Impressionist exhibitions between 1874 and 1886, neither did he use the typical Impressionist technique. Nonetheless, works by “pure” impressionists were quite well represented, with Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, Sisley and Morisot all featured at the exhibition. Next to other artists whose works were not particularly resonant in the Czech milieu, the show included Neo-Impressionism represented by Paul Signac's oils and watercolours and, importantly, works by artists who stepped outside Impressionist confines: Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh.
In response to Cézanne's and Gogh's works, Šalda assumed a more critical position toward Impressionism than he had held in the past. In his view, Impressionism's original spark had waned, and the Neo-Impressionist phase failed to convince him; rather, Signac's and Seurat's approach clashed with his idea of a perfect artwork. Instead of an Impressionist analysis, Šalda now promoted the new synthesis as an ideal, a decorative and monumental style based on working with the surface: “great, monumental art, art that is flat and decorative as the ultimate goal of all painterly efforts” [Šalda 1907a, p. 25]. In his evolutionary understanding of art, Šalda perceived Impressionism as a mere transitory phase or perhaps a “mere precon-dition and point of departure toward this higher, more synthetic goal” [Šalda 1907b, pp. 224–225].
The critique of Impressionism was closely tied to an increased interest in artists who were somehow inspired by Impressionism but whose approach was very different. In the Czech milieu, the “saviour” role fell to Paul Cézanne, even though Šalda's bet was on Gaugin. While by 1907, artists from the Osma (The Eight) group still processed the paintings by Edvard Munch, one year later, Bohumil Kubišta was already following Cézanne’s example, aiming toward an entirely new approach to the painting’s plastic composition. The exhibition thus became a milestone of sorts for younger artists who came to the conclusion that Impressionism had nothing in store for them and that their own “evolutionary” orientation toward Post-Impressionism was the right path.
Miloš Jiránek aptly characterized the situation as follows: “Our ambition is now different; the richer sensibility for colour, the ability to capture subtler perceptions that [the Impressionists] discovered for us is now general knowledge and no longer a merit; their effort to capture the impression of a moment is too ephemeral for us, we want a greater concentration, longer tension of energy than most of them settled for. Fortunately, they were richer than their one-sided intentions and we recognize and love their work precisely for that which reaches beyond the Impressionist formula, we worship figures who outgrow this formula. Manet, Degas and Cézanne are not even orthodox Impressionists, and we like Monet and Sisley most when they forget about their theories. Neo-Impressionists, on the other hand, never forget about them, and this is hard to forgive.” [Jiránek 1907, p. 148].
Jiránek 1907: Miloš Jiránek, Francouzští impresionisté (1907), in: idem, O českém malířství moderním a jiné práce, ed. Jiří Kotalík, Praha 1962, pp. 147–153
Šalda 1907a: František Xaver Šalda, Informační slovo úvodem, in: Katalog třiadvacáté výstavy Spolku výtvarných umělců Mánes v Praze 1907. Francouzští impresionisté, Praha: SVU Mánes 1907, pp. 5–31
Šalda 1907b: František Xaver Šalda, Impresionism: jeho rozvoj, resultáty i dědicové, in: idem, Kritické projevy 6, 1905–1907, ed. Karel Dvořák, Praha 1951, pp. 198–225
Karolína Fabelová, La collaboration entre Camille Mauclair et l'association Mánes, a l'occa-sion de l'exposition Henri Le Sidaner et Louis Dejean et de l'exposition des impressionnistes français a Prague, Umění / Art LVIII, 2010, pp. 242–255
Nicholas Sawicki, Na cestě k modernosti. Umělecké sdružení Osma a jeho okruh v letech 1900–1910, Praha 2014, pp. 132–134
Prague City Archives, Fonds Spolek výtvarných umělců Mánes, Výstavní činnost, Francouzští impresionisté. 1907 (říjen–listopad) [Mánes Fine Arts Association, Exhibitions, French Impressionists. 1907 (October–November)], http://katalog.ahmp.cz/
Katalog třiadvacáté výstavy Spolku výtvarných umělců Manes v Praze 1907. Francouzští impresionisté [Catalogue of the twenty-third exhibition of the Manes Fine Arts Association in Prague 1907. French Impressionists]
Publisher: Mánes Fine Arts Association
Place and year of publication: Praha 1907
anonymous author, Francouzští impresionisté, Dílo V, 1907–1908, pp. 215–218pdf
Josef and Karel Čapek, 23. výstava Spolku výtvarných umělců Mánes v Praze, in: Moravskoslezská revue IV, 1907–1908, no. 2, November 1907, pp. 73–74pdf
F. X. Harlas, Rozhledy v umění výtvarném: Francouzské umění 19. věku v pavilloně Manesově, in: Osvěta XXXVII, 1907, pp. 1035–1038pdf
Hanuš Jelínek, Kronika výtvarná, Lumír XXXVI, 1907–1908, no. 2, 18. 11. 1907, pp. 89–90pdf
Miloš Jiránek, Francouzští impresionisté. Volné směry XII, 1908, pp. 7–10, in: idem, O českém malířství moderním a jiné práce, ed. Jiří Kotalík, Praha 1962, pp. 147–153pdf
Karel Boromejský Mádl, Francouzští impresionisté, in: idem, Umění včera a dnes: pětadvacet výstav „Mánesa“: kronika deseti let 1898–1908, Praha , pp. 369–391pdf
M. [Karel Boromejský Mádl], Výstava impresionistů, Zlatá Praha XXV, 1907–1908, no. 4, 18. 10. 1907, pp. 45–46pdf
Anonymous author, Dne 27. září otevře „Manes“…, Volné směry XI, 1906–1907, p. 377
Anonymous author, Nové výstavy, Zlatá Praha XXIV, 1906–1907, no. 51, 13. 9. 1907, p. 620
Anonymous author, Výstava francouzských impresionistů v paviloně „Manesa“, Národní politika XXV, 1907, ap-pendix to no. 266, 26. 9., n. p.
Anonymous author, XXIII. výstava „Manesa“ v paviloně pod zahradou Kinských, Národní listy XLVII, 1907, no. 269, 29. 9., morning edition, p. 5
Anonymous author, XXIII. výstava „Manesa“, Národní politika XXV, 1907, appendix to no. 271, 1. 10., n. p.
Anonymous author, Výbor Sdružení výtvar. umělců mor., Lidové noviny XV, 1907, č. 296, 26. 10., morning edition, p. 2
Anonymous author, Výstava francouzské malby XIX. století v Praze v paviloně „Manesa“ pod Kinskou, Národní listy XLVII, 1907, p. 261, 22. 9., morning edition, p. 13