What Is Impressionism Art?

Posted by Robert Lange on

What is impressionism art? It’s an art movement that has its roots in France. At first, it was developed in painting, but later, it also affected music. Impressionist artists turned away from working in their studios and preferred capturing images in the open air. Their art was focused on capturing the effects of sunlight rather than strictly formal images; hence, they used small, visible brush strokes instead of attempting to achieve a higher level of reality. Do you want to learn more? Then read on!

Impressionism Art: Definition

Let’s start with the definition of impressionism. It’s a late 19th-century art movement that has its roots in France. Like many other revolutionary movements, it was created as an opposition – in this case, to the art standards imposed by the French Academy.

Impressionism was, at first, only applied to painting, though it also reached out to other disciplines, namely music. In the former, it was characterized by visible brush strokes, capturing objects on the spot, working in the open air, and focusing on recreating the effects of the sunlight.

Since it was in opposition to the established art standards, impressionist artists did not get much recognition at first. But after some time, it did get the credit and made its way up to the Salons – annual, government-sponsored art exhibitions that, ironically, were one of the elements opposed by the early impressionists.

What Are the Principles of Impressionism Art?

Knowing the definition of impressionism art, let’s focus on the key ideas behind it. What did the artist focus on? How did they create their works? Here are all the answers:

  • Capturing the fleeting moment – Impressionist artists aimed to depict the immediate and transient effects of light, atmosphere, and movement on the spot.
  • Visible brush strokes – Artists within this movement often employed loose and visible brushwork, avoiding smooth blending. This was done to convey a sense of spontaneity and movement in their works.
  • Outdoor scenes – Impressionists frequently painted en plein air (outdoors), depicting landscapes, urban scenes, and leisure activities such as boating or picnicking.
  • Painting modern life – Impressionists depicted contemporary subjects and scenes from everyday life, including urban streets, cafes, and leisure pursuits, reflecting the changes in the social life of the 19th century.
  • Vibrant color palette – The impressionist artworks are characterized by bright, vibrant colors in different shades that resemble the reflection of sunlight.
  • Focus on the light – Impressionists were fascinated by the play of light and shadow, and they sought to capture its ever-changing qualities – this was a priority in their works.
  • Rejection of traditional techniques and subjects – Impressionists rebelled against the academic conventions of their time, opting for unconventional compositions and unusual subjects, hence departing from strict realism in favor of subjective interpretations of reality.

The Two Most Famous Impressionists and Their Works

Impressionism is a movement that gave birth to numerous excellent artists, although it is undoubtedly a shame that many of them did not get the recognition they deserved. Who were the most important ones? Take a look at the list below.

Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Being one of the most famous artists in the history of modern art, Claude Monet is often called one of the founding fathers of impressionism art. He was among the initiators of this art movement, leading fellow artists and fighting for its recognition while opposing the traditional approach of the French Academy.

What was Monet’s most famous work? We could list several of them, as he created multiple masterpieces. However, if we need to choose one, we opt for Impression, Sunrise (1872) – the painting that the impressionist movement owes its name to. It depicts a hazy harbor scene and incorporates the key ideas of the whole movement: loose brushwork, vibrant colors, and great detail in capturing the effects of light.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Renoir is most famously known for his depictions of everyday life. Like most impressionist artists, he used a vibrant color palette to recreate the beauty of the world around him. Similarly to Monet, he was one of the leaders of the movement, and his works weren’t recognized at first.

What is Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s finest impressionist work? In our opinion, the Luncheon of the Boating Party (1881) – a picturesque painting depicting a group of friends dining on a balcony while overlooking the Seine River.

The Takeaway

What is impressionism art? It’s an art movement that started in the late 19th century in France. It was characterized by visible (but small) brushwork and attention to the way light falls on the objects. Like many new movements, impressionism was quite a revolution, and the artists struggled to gain recognition early on. This is the perfect proof that even if your own art style is not praised now, it can be so in the future – so do not give up and stay true to yourself.


You might also read: What Is Realist Art? Definition, Artists and Examples

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