Impressionism was one of the most influential movements in modern art history.
Artists from many different eras and parts of the world have painted in the Impressionist style.
However, the term impressionism most commonly refers to a group of French painters who did the majority of their work from 1865 until 1910. This group of painters included Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Alfred, Sisley, and Auguste Renoir.
The Impressionist Art Style
Instead of painting a picture from an emotional point of view, impressionist artists tried to capture immediate impressions of objects and scenes.
Impressionist painters concentrated on elements of colour, light, and texture.
Artists of this time period used broad brushstrokes and applied paint in small spots of pure colour instead of mixing colours. They rarely used grey or black paint. For this reason, many impressionist paintings seem to have a shimmering brilliance.
It was common for Impressionists to paint outdoors to capture the essence of natural light. Some artists like Monet painted the same scene in various atmospheric conditions to capture different light effects. Painting in the outdoors led to the plein-air, or open air, art movement.
Noteworthy Impressionist Painters
Edouard Manet was the founding father of Impressionism.
In 1863, Manet exhibited his painting Dejeuner sur l’herbe at the Salon des Refuses in Paris. His painting, which depicted two fully clothed men with a nude female bather, caused quite a commotion at the exhibition.
Despite public outcry, Manet became a kind of hero among young artists. He was joined by Monet and the other artists to form the Impressionist group.
Each impressionist artist had their own style:
- Manet painted everyday objects and visual scenes.
- Degas painted ballet dancers and horse races in a spontaneous, immediate style.
- Sisley and Pissarro were well known for their idyllic paintings of the French countryside and river scenes.
- Monet was a master of painting the subtle changes in atmospheric effects.
- Renoir enjoyed painting the effect of sunlight on figures and flowers.
The Evolution of Impressionism
Impressionism spread through Europe and onto the United States.
James. A. M. Whistler, who studied in France and England, was one of the first Americans to paint subtle atmospheric changes.
Mary Cassatt, who spent much of her time painting in France, was well-known for her Impressionist portraits.
American painters John Singer Sargent and Childe Hassam also became famous during the Impressionist era.
In Australia, one of the most well known Impressionist painters was John Russell. While studying art in France, Russell befriended Claude Monet. Russell’s work had a keen likeness to Monet’s paintings. However, Russell never became famous in the art world because he never formally exhibited his work. The impressionist style of painting led to the plein-air art movement in Australia. Many artists who painted in the plein-air style included Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, and Julian Ashton.
Impressionism ended around 1865, but it continued to influence other modern art forms, including Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, and Pointillism.
Other Art Movements
- Abstract Expressionism
- Academic Art
- Art Deco
- Art Nouveau
- Conceptual Art
- Figurative Art
- Naive Art
- Pop Art
- Surrealism / Surrealist Art