The history of impressionism in art is an interesting one. The word “impressionism” was initially intended as a pejorative by art critics who were utterly horrified at the new painting style. By the middle and late 1800s, it was generally accepted that serious artists blended their colors and minimized the appearance of brushstrokes. Impressionist paintings consist of works produced from around 1867-1886. This group of artists shared a number of approaches and techniques.
The New Aesthetic of Impressionism
In the new aesthetic, the focus was toward an artist’s manipulation of color, tone, and texture, which were ends in themselves. Rejecting strict rules, Impressionist artists displayed in their works a new way to observe and portray the world. They abandoned realist representations in favor of fleeting impressions of the surroundings – which were usually found outdoors.
Rather than painting in studios, some impressionists found they could better capture the fleeting, transient effects of sunlight by working rapidly, in front of their subjects, in the open air instead of a studio. Impressionists took advantage of the mid-century introduction of pre-mixed paints in tin tubes. This allowed artists to work in more spontaneity, whether outside or inside. In the late 1860s, Claude Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, and others began painting scenes of the countryside and rivers. Leading Impressionist painters attempted to record the colors and forms of objects as they appeared under natural light at a given moment.
The vibrant colors frequently used were quite unlike those of a traditional painting. Yet some Impressionist artists intentionally used a more muted palette. The grays and darker shades of many Impressionist paintings are mixed with complementary colors. While the artists who practiced real impressionism often avoided using black paint. In addition to their brushwork, the Impressionists exhibited a distinctive approach to color.
Post-impressionists adopted the painterly brushwork of Impressionism. Abstract expressionists found inspiration in Claude Monet’s unconventional approaches to form. And many modern artists continue to work in the neo-impressionist style as well. Artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Paul Gauguin, and Georges Seurat, pushed the boundaries of Impressionism in various creative directions. In doing so, they laid the groundwork for 20th-century art.
Thus concludes the history of impressionism in art. Check out this calendar of Lauren Forcella’s contemporary impressionistic exhibitions to witness this style of art in person.