think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a
streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you." Claude
art movement originated in France in the last quarter of the 19th century
as a reaction against traditional art and its strict rules. A group of
painters who became known as the Impressionists decided to gain independence
from the standards prescribed by the French Academy of Fine Arts and France's
annual official art exhibition called The Salon. Impressionism covers
approximately two decades, from the late 1860s through the 1880s.
impressionist was first used by French art critic Louis Leroy in
1874 based on Monet's painting Impression, Sunrise. Leroy found
the term fitting to describe the loose, undefined and "unfinished"
style that Monet and several other artists applied to their paintings.
preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern is more highly finished than
Louis Leroy, 1874, criticism of Monet's Impression, Sunrise
painters strove to break away from the traditional rules of subject matter,
technique, and composition in painting, and created their own, unique
of Impressionist Paintings
Scenes from Everyday Life
Unlike conservative painters who focused on portraying dramatic, often
historical scenes of idealized beauty and moral or religious meaning,
the Impressionists chose ordinary scenes from everyday life as the subject
matter of their work. They put emphasis on capturing reality and depicting
what they saw at a given moment.
Nature was elevated to become the subject of the painting, rather
than a backdrop for another scene, as was the case in traditional
art. In painting landscapes, the Impressionists tried to put on
canvas what they saw in front of them, without idealization. They
often made a seemingly ordinary part of nature (a riverside path,
a field of haystacks) the focal point of their work.
Pissarro: Pommiers en Fleurs, Eragny
Impressionist artists were interested in portraying people in everyday,
informal situations: the middle class during leisure time activities
in gardens, parks, or at the seaside, and workmen or rural people
at work. One novelty of people portraits was the introduction of
nudes who, "at the time, ... were an acceptable subject in
allegorical or historical paintings, but not in scenes of everyday
Renoir: Oarsmen at Chatou
With the 19th century Industrial Revolution and the reconstruction
of Paris into a modern city, the city scene became one of the Impressionists'
favorite subjects: "women wearing the latest fashions, the
airy new streets and suburbs of Paris, modern modes of transportation
..., and the riverside and seacoast resorts where Parisians spent
their leisure time."*
Caillebotte: Paris, a Rainy Day, 1877
Painting still life allowed the Impressionists to experiment with
the depiction of changing light and to study the effects of light
and shadow on the look of ordinary objects.
Paul Cézanne: Natura Morta Con Tenda
The Impressionists distanced themselves from the somber tones of earlier
paintings. They generally avoided the use of black and earth colors and
instead used light, vibrant colors to give their paintings luminosity
and to capture the changing effect of sunlight on the scenes they painted.
Bright, contrasting colors were put onto the canvas one next to or on
top of each other, often without prior mixing or subsequent blending.
In order to convey the movement and changing nature of a passing moment,
the Impressionists used quick, broken brushstrokes that were left without
any further smoothing. This method allows the viewer to clearly see the
traces of the brush and gives impressionist paintings an unfinished appearance.
The Impressionists worked quickly, sometimes in one sitting, in order
to capture the fleeting moment and to give their work a spontaneous feel.
Impressionist painters often worked outdoors, not in a studio, to be in
close touch with nature and to be able to directly observe the effects
of changing sunlight, weather and movement.
Impressionists broke the traditional rules of composition and opened
their style to experimenting. In their attempts to capture a given
moment, they omitted detail in favor of the overall effect of the
painting. They looked at their subjects from unusual angles and
often cropped or framed their work in a way that was new to painting.
A scene is often captured as if in passing or through the lens of
a camera (a new invention at the time that enabled the Impressionists
to study movement and gesture in real-life situations).
Degas: Blue Dancers
(art)," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2005
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