The impressionist painters expressly disavowed any interest in philosophy, yet their new
approach to art had far-reaching philosophical implications. For the view of matter that the
Impressionists assumed differed profoundly from the view that had previously prevailed among
artists. This view helped to unify the artistic works created in the new style.
The ancient Greeks had conceived of the world in concrete terms, even endowing abstract
qualities with bodies. This Greek view of matter persisted, so far as painting was concerned,
into the nineteenth century. The Impressionists, on the other hand, viewed light, not matter, as
the ultimate visual reality. The philosopher Taine expressed the Impressionist view of things
when he said, “The chief ‘person’ in a picture is the light in which everything is bathed.”
In Impressionist painting, solid bodies became mere reflectors of light, and distinctions
between one object and another became arbitrary conventions; for by light all things were
welded together. The treatment of both color and outline was transformed as well. Color,
formerly considered a property inherent in an object, was seen to be merely the result of
vibrations of light on the object’s colorless surface. And outline, whose function had formerly
been to indicate the limits of objects, now marked instead merely the boundary between units
of pattern, which often merged into one another.
The Impressionist world was composed not of separate objects but of many surfaces on
which light struck and was reflected with varying intensity to the eye through the atmosphere,
which modified it. It was this process that produced the mosaic of colors that formed an
Impressionist canvas. “Light becomes the sole subject of the picture,” writes Mauclair. “The
interest of the object upon which it plays is secondary. Painting thus conceived becomes a
purely optic art.”
From this profoundly revolutionary form of art, then, all ideas—religious, moral,
psychological—were excluded, and so were all emotions except certain aesthetic ones. The
people, places, and things depicted in an Impressionist picture do not tell story or convey any
special meaning; they are, instead, merely parts of pattern of light drawn from nature and
captured on canvas by the artist.
1. The author of the passage is primarily concerned with
(A) explaining how the Impressionists were influenced by scientific studies of light and color
(B) discussing the philosophical implications of the Impressionist style of painting
(C) identifying the revolutionary artistic techniques developed by the Impressionist painters
(D) analyzing the influence of thinkers like Taine and Mauclair on Impressionist painting
(E) defending the importance of the Impressionist painters in the history of modern art
2. According to the passage, the Impressionists differed from the ancient Greeks in that the Impressionists
(A) considered color to be property inherent in objects
(B) placed a higher value on the narrative element in painting
(C) depicted the objects in a painting as isolated, rather than united in a single pattern
(D) treated light, rather than matter, as the ultimate reality
(E) regarded art primarily as a medium for expressing moral and aesthetic ideas
3. The author’s quotation of a statement by Taine (lines 15-16) serves which of the following functions in the passage?
(A) It furnishes a specific example of an Impressionist painting that features light as its chief subject.
(B) It resolves an apparent contradiction in the philosophy of the Impressionists.
(C) It qualifies the statement that the ancient Greeks viewed the world in concrete terms.
(D) It summarizes the unique perspective that the Impressionists brought to painting.
(E) It provides a concrete illustration of the far-reaching philosophical implications of Impressionism.
4. According to the passage, the Impressionists believed that the atmosphere
(A) reflects light with varying intensity
(B) creates the illusion of color in colorless surfaces
(C) modifies the shapes of objects
(D) is the result of vibrations of light
(E) affects the way we perceived color
5. The author’s use of the term “mosaic of colors” (line 32) suggests that Impressionist paintings were characterized by
(A) discontinuous dabs of unmixed pigment
(B) broad, sweeping brush strokes
(C) clearly defined forms and objects
(D) subjects devoid of emotive or literary qualities
(E) the glowing reds, greens, and midnight blues of stained glass
6. The passage contains information that answers which of the following questions?
I. How did the Impressionists perceive matter?
II. What is the unifying element in a typical Impressionist painting?
II. How did the Impressionists’ view of color differ from that of eighteenth-century artists?
(A) I only
(B) III only
(C) I and II only
(D) II and III only
(E) I, II, and III
7. The ideas attributed to the Impressionists in the passage suggest that an Impressionist painter would be most likely to agree with which of the following statement?
(A) A picture is significant primarily as a manifestation of the artist’s mental state.
(B) The highest purpose of art is to teach religious truths.
(C) The quality of a picture has nothing to do with the nature of the objects it depicts.
(D) An artist should strive to recreate on canvas the inner nature of objects from real life.
(E) It is futile to attempt to paint pictures that aim to copy the optical appearance of the world.