movement was a revolution—against the government-sanctioned Salons, against the Parisian art establishment, and against the exacting detail of Realism. Artists like
staged an early coup d’état with the 1863 Salon des Refusés, and went on to scandalize critics with their loose brushwork and modern subjects.
Meanwhile, another revolution—this one technological—was quietly taking place behind the scenes.
In 1841, American artist John G. Rand invented the tin paint tube as a replacement for the pig bladders previously used to store paint. This innovation made it easier for artists to travel with their materials in tow, facilitating the plein air techniques that became a signature of the Impressionists. Paint itself had seen rapid developments in recent years, with the introduction of machine-ground pigment and the invention of never-before-seen synthetic hues.
In turn, the increasing diversity of available art supplies spawned a new group of experts. Until the mid-18th century, artists in Europe had purchased their pigments from drugstores that also peddled minerals, spices, and resins imported from far-flung locations like Africa and the Far East. But shop owners soon began to specialize, and by 1770 the term marchands de couleurs (or “color merchant”) was in regular use.
The trade flourished, particularly in Paris. In 1817, there were 79 color merchants; in 1830, 270; and by 1885, there were 600.