Lived1862 – 1918
Mostly in Paris
Best Known For Clair de lune, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, Pelléas et Mélisande, La Mer
D e bussy disliked the term ‘impressionism’. He apparently still associated it with its original use by the art critic who in 1874 had taken the title of a sunrise painting by Monet, Impression: Soleil levant, and had used it as sarcastic evidence against the artist: “Impression… what freedom, what ease of workmanship! A preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more finished than this seascape.”
When the artists themselves quite happily adopted the term, however, it lost its pejorative sense. We are less clear about what it means when applied to music rather than visual art, but we have a useful general idea and we certainly would not accuse Debussy’s ‘impressionist’ works of being perfunctory, sketchy, ill-defined or unfinished. There is no more vivid demonstration of the precision of his...