Even for the less informed viewer, a painting by Samir Sammoun always leaves more of an impression than a definite sense of the subject of the painting. Indeed, the artist knows how to use the light, the shadows and an economy of details which makes it so, whoever stops before one of the works of the painter feels the atmosphere of the scene even without knowing the geographical situation.
It is in this spirit of suggestion and interpretation that Samir Sammoun betrays his debt to one of the most influential artistic movements in the history of art, Impressionism.
Impressionism, it should be remembered, is a nineteenth-century artistic movement characterized by relatively small, thin but visible brushstrokes, an open composition, emphasis on the precise representation of light in its changing qualities. (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subjects, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.
Impressionism originated in a group of Parisian artists whose independent exhibitions made famous in the 1870s and 1880s.
In the mid-nineteenth century – period of change, as the Emperor Napoleon III rebuilt Paris and went to war – the Academy of Fine Arts dominated French art. The Academy jealously guarded the standards of content and style of traditional French painting. Historical subjects, religious themes and portraits were valued; landscape and still life were not. The Academy preferred carefully finished images that seemed realistic when examined closely. The paintings of this style were composed of precise brushstrokes carefully mixed to hide the hand of the artist in the work. The color, meanwhile, was seen as less interesting and used discreetly and even often mitigated by the application of a golden varnish.
Odalisque (1874), Jules Joseph Lefebvre. Lefebvre frequently exhibited his works at the Paris Salon, and is a good example of 19th century Academic art.
In the early 1860s, four young painters – Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Frederic Bazille met while studying under the artist Charles Gleyre. They soon discovered a common taste for landscape and ordinary subjects as well as for painting on the motif where, the presence of natural light, came to bring a liveliness and a light not widespread in the paintings of the time.
At the time, the main place where artists could present their work was the annual Salon which had been held since the end of the 17th century. The jury of the Salon was composed of members of the academic elite who, of course, almost systematically refused all the paintings of the young group which, by then, also included Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne and Armand Guillaumin who gathered around Édouard Manet, one of the precursors of the movement.
After the Emperor Napoleon III saw the rejected works of 1863, he decreed that the public be allowed to judge the work itself, and the Salon des Refusés was organized. At first subject to ridicule on the part of critics and the public, the Salon des Refusés soon showed what was, in essence, a new artistic movement.
Subsequently, the new artists formed the Cooperative Anonyme of Artists Painters, Sculptors, Engravers who held their first exhibition in 1874 and which included the painting “Impression, Soleil Levant” by Claude Monet. This painting inspired the critic Louis Leroy who reviewed it in a sarcastic article published in the Charivari, “the Exhibition of Impressionists”, creating the neologism that would become the name of the movement.
Impression soleil levant by Claude Monet,1873
Today, Impressionism has, of course, is well acclaimed and no one would think to ridicule this movement that was at the origin of all the artistic innovations of the twentieth century, both pictorial, musical and literary.
Samir Sammoun, like many current artists, draws his inspiration from the work of the giants of Impressionism to arrive at an interpretation of nature and the works of man that owes as much to the past as to a present always in motion.