Considered as the first modern movement in painting, impressionism started in the 19th century in Paris and spread throughout Europe and beyond.

Impressionism as an art was originally founded by individual artists who wanted to shun the official art routes of exhibitions, shows and other formal affairs and instead wanted to get back to capturing the moment. Many impressionist artists ended up leaving the restricted world of the studio, instead relocating to the countryside and streets ready to capture the sensory side of the world in front of them.

Key factors of Impressionism

Impressionist paintings can be identified through a few key styles, including:

  • The brush strokes were looser and lighter than other traditional methods
  • The colour palettes were also enhanced, with lighter, purer and intense colours being used over bolder, darker colours.
  • Traditional linear perspective was also dismissed to make way for a 2D view of the scene, with no clear focus on one central item. To this point, many art critics tended to admonish some examples of impressionist art work with the opinion that it looked of amateurish quality and unfinished.
  • Impressionist artists also tended to paint what they saw – neglecting typical so-called perfect scenes and symmetry, instead looking out for a scene that was perfect for them; imperfect and real.
  • At the time of impressionism, modernism was construed in a number of different ways but a modernistic opinion of impressionist artists was the idea of capturing a single split second of life, which no one would really give a lot of thought to – a split second of life for a lifetime of timelessness on the canvas – the impression behind the vision.
  • Impressionist artists actively sought to capture the effects and tricks of light, changes in weather and the passage of time within their artwork.

Famous Impressionism Artists

Claude Monet

Perhaps the most well-known impressionism artist was Claude Monet. In fact the term ‘impressionism’ came from the title of his painting ‘Impression, soleil levant’, which translated to ‘Impression, Sunrise’ in English. After the initial showing in April 1874 in Paris at the very first “Exhibition of the Impressionists”, it is this very painting that is credited with coining the term.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Considered as one of the founding fathers of the impressionist style. Renoir, a French artist was most famously known for his depictions of female sensuality and nudity as well as a celebrator of all things beautiful. With over 4000 paintings to his name, the largest collection of these is currently at the Barnes Foundation in the US.

Alfred Sisley

Born and raised in Paris, Sisley was considered the most consistent of all the impressionist artists due to his dedication to painting landscape scenes outdoors. He did spend some time instead painting figures, however stated that impressionism fulfilled his artists needs, desires and skills better than other styles.

Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin

Well renowned as a French impressionist painter by the time of his death in 1943, Martin was associated with Puvis de Chavannes, the world class symbolist painter best known as “the painter for France”. Martin was an introvert who moved away from Paris to the quieter, tranquil environs of Cahors and produced his best work overlooking La Bastide du Vert.

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