Impressionism – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Theory Glossary

What is Impressionism?

Impressionism is an art movement that originated in France in the late 19th century. It is characterized by a focus on capturing the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere in a scene.

Impressionist artists sought to depict their subjects in a more spontaneous and naturalistic way, often using loose brushwork and vibrant colors to convey a sense of movement and immediacy.

This style of painting was a radical departure from the more traditional and academic approaches to art that were prevalent at the time.

Origins of Impressionism

Impressionism first emerged in the 1860s and 1870s in France, as a group of artists began to experiment with new techniques and approaches to painting.

The term “Impressionism” was coined by art critic Louis Leroy in 1874, after seeing Claude Monet’s painting “Impression, Sunrise.”

The artists associated with the Impressionist movement often worked outdoors, capturing scenes of everyday life and the natural world with a fresh and spontaneous approach.

Impressionist art is characterized by its emphasis on capturing the effects of light and atmosphere in a scene.

The artists often used short, broken brushstrokes to create a sense of movement and energy in their paintings.

Color was also a key element of Impressionist art, with artists using vibrant hues and bold contrasts to convey a sense of immediacy and emotion.

Key Artists of Impressionism

Some of the key artists associated with the Impressionist movement include Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Berthe Morisot.

Each of these artists brought their own unique style and perspective to the movement, but all shared a common interest in capturing the fleeting effects of light and atmosphere in their work.

Impact and Legacy of Impressionism

Impressionism had a profound impact on the art world, challenging traditional notions of what constituted “good” art and paving the way for future artistic movements.

The movement also had a lasting legacy, influencing generations of artists and shaping the way we perceive and appreciate art today.

Impressionist paintings are now some of the most sought-after and valuable works of art in the world.

Criticisms of Impressionism

Despite its popularity and influence, Impressionism was not without its critics.

Some art critics and academics at the time dismissed Impressionist art as unfinished or amateurish, arguing that it lacked the technical skill and precision of more traditional approaches to painting.

However, over time, the Impressionist movement has come to be recognized as a groundbreaking and revolutionary period in the history of art.