Impressionism: Art Movement

by Annie Saxena on Feb 09, 2023

Impressionism: Art Movement

Impressionism is an art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists during 19th-century. Characteristics of these paintings include open composition, ordinary subject matter, relatively small and thin brush strokes, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities, unusual visual angles and inclusion of movement as an element very crucial for human perception. Impressionists faced a lot of opposition from the art community in France.

The further development of Impressionism in the visual arts and other media became known as impressionist music and literature.

Even after the disapproval of this new style by art critics, the public believed that impressionists always managed to capture a fresh and original vision by recreating the sensation in the eye.

Impressionism, as an art movement was the precursor of various painting styles, which includes Post-Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism, Cubism and Fauvism.

Impressionist techniques

The innovative style of the impressionists can very well be linked to the identifiable techniques used by them. These techniques primarily include :
Use of short, thick strokes of paint.

Mixing of complementary colors to produce dark tones instead of using black paint.
Side by side application of the colors so that they appear vivid to the viewers.
Usage of opaque painting surface. The impressionists were not inclined to exploit the transparency of thin paint films.

Unlike the previous painter, impressionists used light- colored or white ground.
Production of softer edges by applying wet paint one after the other instead of waiting for the paint to dry for successive application.

They often resorted to the practice of working in the evening to produce a shadowy effect of evening. They emphasized the play of natural light. Reflection of colors from one object to another too was closely paid attention to.

Unlike the work of previous painters, the impressionists often painted the shadows boldly with sky blue color to add the touch of freshness.

Introduction of new technology played a key role in the development of the style. It assisted the impressionists to work spontaneously and they took full advantage of the same.

During the 19th century synthetic pigments such as cadmium yellow, blue viridian became commercially available to the artists for the very first time. The impressionists made bold use of these very pigments. The progress of the impressionist towards a brighter painting style was a gradual one. Initially, red- brown or grey grounds were used by the impressionists such as Monet and Renoir. However, by the 1870’s they preferred a middle tone such as light grey or beige color ground for the finished painting. The 1880’s saw the usage of off- white or white grounds by the impressionists, who no longer allowed the ground color to be of significance in the finished paintings.

Content and Composition

The development of Impressionism was developed as a reaction by artists to the challenge that occurred due to photography, which was thought as something that devalue an artist’s skill in imitating reality. Paintings like portrait and landscape were seemed to be lacking in truth as photography produced lifelike images reliably and more efficiently. Photography inspired a lot many artists to pursue other means of creative expressions as well. So instead of competing with photography, artists chose to further developing subjectivity in an art form, something that was eliminated by photography.

Rather than creating exact representations, Impressionists chose to express perceptions of nature by depicting whatever they saw with their taste and conscience. The Impressionists were the first ones to offer an alternative to photograph.

Main Impressionists

Amongst the major figures involved in the development of Impressionism in France, were:

Gustave Caillebotte, Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Armand Guillaumin, Édouard Manet, Berthe Morisot and Claude Monet.

Sculpture, photography and film
The sculptor Auguste Rodin used roughly modeled surfaces to depict transient light effects is sometimes called an Impressionist.

The photographers whose work is defined and characterized by atmospheric effects and soft focus have also been called Impressionists.

From 1919–1929, group of films and filmmakers in France were labeled as French Impressionist Cinema. Some of the French Impressionist filmmakers include : Dmitry Kirsanoff, Jean Epstein, Marcel L’Herbier, Germaine Dulac, Louis Delluc, and Abel Gance.