A Guide To Impressionism

Impressionism is the name given to a movement amongst a group of 19th Century Paris artists that met through various art schools and acquaintances and became friends through their art. The whole essence of an impressionist painting is that it is not a true representation of the objects or people portrayed. The colours are not blended together as in traditional oil paintings of the time and it is up to the viewer of the painting to gain the impression of the picture as a whole. In the early days of impressionism their work was seen as extremely radical and many exhibitions refused to showcase any of the works. In retrospect it is possible to see that impressionism was responsible for the development of many of the later artists and had an influence on their work.

Famous impressionists

There were a number of painters in this original group of impressionists, and there have been many painters who have adopted their style since the 1800’s. However, the more famous of the first true impressionists are:

  • Paul Cézanne
  • Edgar Degas
  • Édouard Manet
  • Claude Monet
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Techniques of the impressionists

A variety of techniques identify a piece of art as impressionism rather than the more common realism of previous artists.

Impressionists were keen on portraying the reflection of colours from one object to another. This led to close attention being paid to the way that the natural light was captured on objects.

Different colours in impressionism were applied next to each other and not mixed. For example, blue and yellow were applied next to each other in works of impressionism and it was left up to the eye of the viewer to see the green that was intended. This optical mixing of the colours meant that the vibrancy of the colours was enhanced. Interestingly, black was never used in a true piece of impressionism art.

The type of brush strokes that are used in oil paintings that want to copy the style of impressionism are short but thick. This is a change from the usually painstakingly placed brushstrokes of other styles of art. The aim is for the objects to be captured quickly, in essence, rather than in accurate detail. Again, the emphasis is placed on the viewer’s eyes filling in the detail to form an accurate picture of the objects and people portrayed.

The paintings of these early advocates of impressionism really came into their own with their outdoor works. The lengthy sittings and posed portraits of other painters were disregarded, and the impressionist artists captured far more candid outdoor scenes. One of the keys of impressionism is that they painted what they actually saw, and not an idyllic view of the landscape or scenery.

Some other famous works of impressionism

By far the most famous of the works of the original impressionists is Renoir’s Le Moulin de la Galette – 1876.

It would be impossible to list all of the significant works of impressionism that have been created but here are a few of the more famous ones:

  • By the Sea – Pierre – Auguste Renoir, 1883
  • A woman ironing - Edgar Degas, 1869
  • Luncheon on the grass - Edouard Manet, 1863
  • Impression, sunrise - Claude Monet, 1873