(Top Image: “A Venetian Backwater” by Fritz Thaulow)
Impressionism is an art movement known for its bright depiction of modern life. This simple style features works that seem unfinished thanks to their sharp blots of color and lack of intricate detailing.
Art in 1860s France was heavy and solemn with the Academic movement dominating exhibitions. The seriousness of the genre held a firm grip in the Salon, forcing adversaries in the art community to experiment with their creativity behind the scenes and hold their own showings. An art exhibition in 1874 Paris held by a collection of artists known as the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc. showcased the first Impressionist art and propelled Impressionism into the limelight. Rather than displaying their pieces in the Salon, the group held their own exhibition, freeing them to put whatever works they’d like on display. This diverse group of artists included Claude Monet and Edgar Degas among others, all who shunned the known styles and norms of the time for new technologies and concepts that brought modern times to life. The movement got its name from critic Louis Leroy, who in 1874 said the style looked similar to sketches or impression, after viewing Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, thus implying that the work was unfinished. Despite the harsh words of many critics, most viewers and even a few critics were dazzled and delighted by Impressionism’s bold look. The movement saw a surge of color, shunning the serious tones of the Academic movement in favor of vivid hues of blue, green, and yellow. The style incorporated light in ways not yet seen, casting shadow and adding depth. While other works of the time focused on historical moments, impressionist art featured everyday moments like shopping, strolling in the park, and casual dining. Parisian life is a common theme, something that’s not a surprise given that the city is the birthplace of the movement. Artists differed on their subjects however, with artists like Edgar Degas choosing working-class people and Berthe Morisot selecting upper-class members of society, as seen in 1872’s On the Balcony. The movement was a hit, and the style is still widely used today.
- Women in the Garden by Claude Monet, 1866
- The Milliner by August Renoir, 1877
- In the Loge by Mary Stevenson Cassatt, 1878
- Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte, 1877
- La Grenouill re by Claude Monet, 1869
- The first Impressionist exhibition might have occurred as early as 1867, but painter Fr d ric Bazille, who had been leading the effort, was killed in the Franco-Prussian War.
- The advancement of synthetic pigments allowed Impressionists to have a wider range of bright, bold colors.
- Camille Pissarro is the only Impressionist to have exhibited in all eight shows of the genre.