10 Famous Impressionism Artists

Posted by Robert Lange on

Right in the middle of 19th-century Paris' artistic hustle and bustle, a group of like-minded artists found themselves disillusioned with the strict conventions of the French Academy of Fine Arts. The Academy's rigid standards dictated that only academicism (a movement emphasizing historical, mythological, or allegorical themes painted with meticulous detail and smooth, polished surfaces) was worthy of praise and exhibition. Thankfully, some had different opinions.

Among them raised amazing, skilled, but most importantly – creative and rebellious impressionism artists, such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt, Camille Pissarro, and Edgar Degas.

Table of Contents

Impressionism Artists – Where Did They Start?

Artists of impressionism started their movement back in the 1860s at Café Guerbois, a smoky, lively café in the bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre. Over endless cups of coffee and heated debates, they shared their frustrations and dreams of a new kind of art that captured the fleeting moments of everyday life and the ever-changing effects of light and atmosphere.


famous artist of impressionism

First Independent Exhibition With Monet in The Spotlight

In 1874, driven by a shared determination to break free from the shackles of academic art, the group organized their own independent exhibition. They boldly displayed their unconventional works to the public by renting the studio of the photographer Nadar. Among the paintings was Monet's "Impression, Sunrise," a depiction of the port of Le Havre shrouded in a misty morning haze. A hostile critic, intending to mock the exhibit, dubbed them "Impressionists" after Monet's title. But rather than taking offense, the artists embraced the term, finding it aptly described their intent to capture the impressions of a moment rather than precise details.

The exhibition was met with a storm of controversy and ridicule. What turned out to be especially unacceptable for Academic artists was the impressionists' loose brushwork and the unfinished, sketch-like quality of their paintings. But some were intrigued, too. The vibrant colors, the play of light, and the depiction of modern life resonated with a few viewers, planting the seeds for a radical shift in the art world.

1880s – The Decade of Change For The Impressionism Movement

Over the next decade, the Impressionists continued to refine their techniques and explore new subjects. They ventured outside the confines of their studios, painting en plein air (in the open air) to directly observe the effects of light and weather on their surroundings. The lush landscapes of the adorable French countryside, bustling Parisian streets, intimate domestic scenes, and fleeting moments of modern life became their subjects.

Each artist brought their unique voice to the movement: Monet's shimmering water lilies, Renoir's joyful social gatherings, Degas's dynamic ballet dancers, and Pissarro's pastoral scenes all contributed to the richness and diversity of Impressionism.

And by the 1880s, the tide began to turn. The once-maligned Impressionists started gaining acceptance and recognition. Their innovative techniques and fresh perspectives inspired a new generation of artists and forever changed the course of art history. The movement spread beyond France, influencing artists worldwide and paving the way for future avant-garde movements.

So, let's finally meet the most famous impressionists!

Who were the main artists of impressionism?

1. Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Claude Monet is perhaps the most famous Impressionist artist. Known for his series of paintings, such as "Water Lilies," "Haystacks," and "Rouen Cathedral," Monet's work captures the effects of light and atmosphere with vibrant, loose brushwork. His painting "Impression, Sunrise" is often credited with giving the movement its name.

2. Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Renoir enjoyed depicting scenes full of life, particularly social gatherings, dances, and portraits of captivating people. His works induce warm feelings caused by luminous colors and the magnificent fluidity of his brushstrokes. Notable works include: "Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette" and "Luncheon of the Boating Party."

3. Édouard Manet (1832-1883)

Though not always classified strictly as an Impressionist, Manet's work was crucial to the movement. He bridged the gap between realism and impressionism with paintings such as "Olympia" and his use of modern life as a subject and innovative techniques influenced many Impressionists. Oh, and one more thing: he just loved to scandalize the bourgeois audience! Just take a look at "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe" and you'll understand.

4. Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

Degas is best known for his depictions of ballet dancers, horse races, and everyday scenes. His work combines Impressionist interest in light and movement with a more classical approach to composition and drawing. Famous works include "The Dance Class" and "L'Absinthe."

5. Camille Pissarro (1830-1903)

Pissarro's work encompasses rural and urban scenes, reflecting his interest in the countryside and city life. He mentored several younger artists, particularly Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin. His paintings are known for their delicate touch and attention to gentle details, especially lights—you'll see it vividly in paintings such as "The Boulevard Montmartre at Night."

6. Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)

Sisley specialized in landscape painting (just look at these lively trees!). He was known for his dedication to capturing the effects of light and weather on the natural environment. His works, like "The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne," perfectly depict serene landscapes.

7. Berthe Morisot (1841-1895)

In her works, Morisot often focuses on domestic life and portraits of women and children, rendered with a light, delicate touch. Notable works include "The Cradle" and "Summer's Day."

8. Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

Cassatt is an American artist who spent much of her life in France. She is particularly well known for her intimate depictions of mothers and children. Her work often explores women's private and domestic lives—this is perfectly visible in pieces like "The Child's Bath" and "Little Girl in a Blue Armchair."

9. Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894)

If you're into cottage aesthetics, you'll love Caillebotte for his realistic urban scenes and careful attention to perspective and composition. His works, such as "Paris Street; Rainy Day" and "The Floor Scrapers," offer a more structured and detailed approach within the Impressionist framework.

10. Frederic Bazille (1841-1870)

Bazille, a close friend of Monet and Renoir, was a master of outdoor settings. Unfortunately, his promising career was cut short by his early death in the Franco-Prussian War. If you'd like to get to know him better, his notable works include "The Pink Dress" and "Family Reunion."

Is That All?

If you want to know more about the lesser-renowned Impressionists, we'd love to invite you to find out more about:

  1. Armand Guillaumin (1841-1927);
  2. Eva Gonzalès (1849-1883);
  3. Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916);
  4. Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933);
  5. Henri Rouart (1833-1912);
  6. Gustave Loiseau (1865-1935);
  7. Maxime Maufra (1861-1918);
  8. Frits Thaulow (1847-1906).

And if you're still craving more, read our article about the most famous female artists of all time.

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