Eighth Impressionist Exhibition 

On the 15th May 1886 the eighth Impressionist Exhibition opened in rooms situated on the second floor of the Maison Dorée, a restaurant, on the corner of Boulevard des Italiens and rue Lafitte, not far from the Opéra. It was only after considerable negotiation and argument that some Impressionists deigned to agree to a new exhibition. The inclusion of Seurat, Signac and Lucien Pissarro triggered the withdrawal of Renoir, Sisley, Monet and Caillebotte. Nevertheless, 246 works were shown and the list of artists included Mary Cassatt, Degas, Gauguin, Guillaumin, Berthe Morisot, Odilon Redon.

The case for the inclusion of Georges Seurat and his compatriot Paul Signac was championed by Camille Pissarro. A compromise was reached; Seurat and Signac, together with Pissarro and his son Lucien would be assigned their own room. It was Seurat’s huge painting entitled A Sunday on the Island of the Grande Jatte which dominated the room and was the main focus of attention for critics – indeed the painting created a sensation. Soon after the exhibition, the anarchist writer and critic Felix Fénéon, coined the phrase Neo-Impressionism to distinguish this new approach from the earlier generation of Impressionists whose works were on show in the other rooms. This painting, and the reaction to it, established Seurat as the de facto leader of a new avant-garde movement.

Text by Geoffrey Smith