Art Styles: Impressionism

Claude Monet Impressionism painting "Impression Sunrise"Impressionist art is a style in which the artist captures the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught a glimpse of it. They paint the pictures with a lot of color and most of their pictures are outdoor scenes. Their pictures are very bright and vibrant. The artists like to capture their images without detail but with bold colors. Impressionism, the leading development in French painting in the later 19th century and a reaction against both the academic tradition and romanticism, refers principally to the work of Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and other artists associated with them, such as Camille Pissarro and Alfred Sisley, who shared a common approach to the rendering of outdoor subjects. Claude Monet is generally considered to be the most outstanding figure among Impressionists. 

"I want the unobtainable. Other artists paint a bridge, a house, a boat, and that's the end. They are finished. I want to paint the air which surrounds the bridge, the house, the boat, the beauty of the air in which these objects are located, and that is nothing short of impossible." - Monet. 


Sisley is recognized as perhaps the most consistent of the Impressionists, never deviating into figure painting or finding that the movement did not fulfill his artistic needs. Alfred Sisley's works can be distinguished from those of his colleagues by their softly harmonious values. His early style was much influenced by Camille Corot, and his restricted and delicate palette continued to reflect something of Corot's silvery tonalities. His snow scapes, such as "Snow at Louveciennes" (shown below) are particularly effective.

The term Impressionism derives from Caude Monet's painting "Impression: Sunrise" (shown here). A title was needed in a hurry for the catalogue of the exhibition in 1874. Monet suggested simply Impression, and the catalogue editor, Renoir's brother Edouard, added an explanatory Sunrise. Characteristics of Impressionist paintings include visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities. Impressionism often accentuates the effects of the passage of time. Using ordinary subject matter, Impressionism adds the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception, while focusing on unusual visual angles.

"Snow at Louveciennes" impressionism style painting by English artist Alfred SisleyImpressionism also refers to the work of artists who participated in a series of group exhibitions in Paris, the first and most famous of which was held from April 15 to May 15, 1874, at the studio of the photographer Nadar. The artists represented at the exhibition, or in the succeeding ones held by the group between 1876 and 1886, included Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Jean Baptiste Armand Guillaumin, Berthe Morisot, and, after 1879, Paul Gauguin and the American artist Mary Cassatt. The group was unified only by its independence from the official annual Salon, for which a jury of artists from the Académie des Beaux-Arts selected artworks and awarded medals. The independent artists, despite their diverse approaches to painting, appeared to contemporaries as a group. While conservative critics panned their work for its unfinished, sketch like appearance, more progressive writers praised it for its depiction of modern life.

By the early 1880s the feeling of cohesiveness that had originally brought the impressionists together had begun to dissolve under the pressure of factions and rivalries. The sense of a shared approach to nature among the landscape painters had also dissolved by then, so that the artists increasingly took their own individual directions. At the same time, impressionism was beginning to have a tremendous impact both on French painting generally and also on the art of other countries; this continued well into the 20th century. Impressionism influenced modern art in such fundamental features as a loosening up of brushwork, which abolished finally the traditional distinction between the finished painting and the preliminary sketch or study.

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