Claude Monet (1840–1926) created a painting titled Impression: Sunrise, 1872, which led to the use of the term "impressionism." His works are considered among the most famous and celebrated of the group of French artists called impressionists. However, a lesser-known painter, Édouard Manet (1832–1883), was actually the group's leader and the first to experiment with the styles that would eventually become known as impressionism. Manet was therefore the true "father" of this movement.
In 1863 Manet exhibited two highly controversial and ground-breaking works: Déjeuner sur l'herbe (Lunch on the grass) and Olympia. In these paintings Manet depicted pastoral (rural) scenes in an earthy and erotic manner that drew outrage from the conservative Parisian academics and art critics. Manet persevered despite the criticism, and in 1868 he challenged his critics again with a portrait of the French writer Émile Zola (1840–1902). One critic denounced the portrait, complaining that Zola's trousers were not made of cloth. Jokingly, Manet admitted that this was true: the pants were made of paint. A few years later, in 1870, Manet began experimenting with painting outdoors, in the brilliance of natural sunlight, which expanded his technique greatly. Despite the criticism he received during his lifetime, Manet pioneered techniques that influenced both his contemporaries and countless artists who followed him.
Further Information: Claude Monet. [Online] Available http://www.redrival.com/monet, October 23, 2000; Claude Monet. [Online] Available http:/www.best.com/-martyw/Monet.html, October 23, 2000; Muhlberger, Richard. What Makes a Monet a Monet? New York: Viking Press, 1993; Murray, Elizabeth. Monet's Passion: Ideas and Inspiration. San Francisco: Pomegranate Artbooks, 1989; Tucker, Paul Hayes. Claude Monet: Life and Art. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995.