Impressionist painters have always been concerned with capturing the light and the sense of emotion in a scene. There are few subjects that are more conducive to capturing the beauty of the light at any time of the day than a city skyline. There are many famous cityscape Impressionist pieces of art that have long been considered some of the best of what the Impressionist movement has produced.
Cityscape works continue to be produced by modern Impressionist painters. You can even choose to make this the focus of your art collection if you wish. There are many fine examples of this subject matter that can help you to recognize the beauty and unique emotion that these kinds of works communicate. Checking out these famous impressionist cityscapes will help you to decide if this is the right kind of art for your collection.
Famous Cityscape Masterpieces in Impressionist Art
1. The Boulevard Montmartre at Night: An Impressionist Night in the City by Camille Pissarro
This is perhaps the best-known and most-loved cityscape painting from the early Impressionist movement. Pissarro painted many cityscapes throughout his career, and he created nighttime and daytime works that captured the light and the sense of space and emotion that city streets could reveal. This work of art was created in 1897 when Pissarro had been staying in a room that overlooked the Montmartre. He watched the world go by below his window and felt that the street was so beautiful that it deserved to be the subject of a painting.
The mastery of Pissarro in capturing the nighttime in this way, without the use of black paint, is quite incredible. There is no doubt that it is nighttime, and yet there is a sense of light and movement in the image that cannot be denied. The glowing street lights are one of the most famous aspects of this work because it can be quite difficult to capture this kind of light correctly.
Cityscapes bring a lot of motion and life along with them, but the light is an important aspect of any scene like this. Pissarro carefully and accurately captures the spots of light that gave this area of the city its sense of light and purpose, even in the darkest hours of the day. This is no easy feat, and many painters before the Impressionist movement would not have attempted to capture this kind of scene due to their desire to maintain complete accuracy.
In keeping with the style of the Impressionist movement, the traffic in the street and the people are just barely suggested in the work, and yet the sense of life and motion that the painting conveys is striking. This is one of the most important pieces of art in this genre for many reasons, and it is a great piece for those learning about Impressionist art to become familiar with. Nighttime paintings are always striking, as captured by Impressionist painters because the sense of light in the scene is not snuffed out due to the darkness.
2. Boulevard des Capucines – Claude Monet
Monet is considered one of the fathers of the Impressionist movement, and he painted all kinds of subject matter during his career. Monet’s painting style was highly influential to other Impressionists even in his day and continues to be one of the references that many painters use to inform them as they learn and grow their own Impressionist style of painting. Monet loved to paint en plein air, which made cityscapes a natural choice for his creative efforts.
Boulevard de Capucines was completed in 1874. This is a bird’s eye view of a bustling and busy street in Paris that was often flooded with people going about their business. Monet loved to capture moments where people were in their native state, not aware that they were being painted, and just going about their daily lives. This is one of the most striking examples of this kind of painting, and many people view it as a landmark work in the Impressionist painting style.
Paris was a place that was always busy, both night and day, and painters like Monet captured these small moments in time for posterity in a way that no other medium could have done. The blue tones in the work suggest that the day might have been overcast, and the sense of bustling life is tinged with a hint of sadness. Monet might have been feeling confined in the city, or maybe he simply was recording the light accurately on the day that he decided to create this work of art.
3. American Impressionism Meets New York Winters: Late Afternoon, New York, Winter 1900 by Childe Hassam
This really lovely Impressionist painting was done by an American. Hassam was one of the best-known of the Impressionist painters in America during the early years of the movement, and he created all kinds of works of art from paintings to lithographs to watercolors. This is one of the most popular works that was created by this painter because of the incredible sense of movement of the snow. One can almost feel the cold air and the snowflakes as they stare into the image before them.
This was work done during the height of Hassam’s career, but he had not deviated from the standards that the Impressionist movement had set. His strong adherence to what made Impressionism special is lovely, especially since he was creating art in a separate market and under the influence of a more American outlook on the creation of art of various kinds. New York was much more European in nature during this period than other places in the US, but it was still far removed from the Paris painting scene and community.
That this work exists at all shows the popularity and all-pervasive influence of the Impressionist movement during the mid-19th century and the early 20th century. So many artists around the world were captivated by this way of viewing the creation of art that there are many really amazing works of art in this style that were created all over the world. Not many painting movements have been this influential, and certainly, no movement that was begun in defiance of the standard portrait-painting method had ever spread so rapidly all over the world.
4. The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning- Camille Pissarro
Pissarro painted the Montmartre thoroughfare outside his window at night, but he also created a work showing its beauty during the day. This was a common painting style of the early Impressionist movement. Creating the same scene at different times of day allowed the painter to capture the sense of light as it shifted across the subject matter. Since light was such a key part of the creation process behind every Impressionist painting, this kind of study of a singular subject matter throughout the course of a day was common.
This is one of the most interesting of Pissarro’s pieces because it offered a sort of bird’s eye view of the street and allowed Pissarro to show the sense of motion below him, which is not captured quite as eloquently in the nighttime version of this work. Paris was nothing if not a bustling metropolis during this period, and the sense of busy lives being carried out below Pissarro’s window is accurately captured in this piece.
The slightly gray and cloudy aspect of the work is really lovely, as it can be tough to capture the right blue-gray note in these kinds of paintings. Impressionist painters are so skilled at capturing the time of day and the season in their works, all because of their commitment to getting the color of the light in their works correct. This image feels almost like a sepia print due to the unique and lovely color that Pissarro was able to use to infuse the work with the correct daytime light during the winter months.
All Impressionist painters played with and explored the light in the scenes they were capturing on canvas. It is always really striking to be able to see how these painters saw the same scene at different times of the day. You can instantly recognize the street as the same one that you saw at night, but the entire feeling of the piece is different, and the sense of movement and life is altered significantly as well. Being skilled at capturing the light in a scene can make all the difference between a ho-hum painting and one that leaps with life off the canvas as this one does.
5. Modern Impressionist Cityscape: Metropolis Series by Elena Bond
Modern Impressionist painters have always had many fine examples of the cityscape style of painting to use to inspire their own works. That being said, this is not as common a subject matter as you might expect. True new Impressionist paintings are not often concerned with these kinds of topics, which is why Bond’s Metropolis Series is so special and unique. Combine this classic subject matter with Bond’s unique Impressionist painting techniques, and you end up with some really striking cityscapes that stand out from the crowd.
Bond has always stated that she wants to capture the color and life of the moment when she paints. She seeks to capture the small stories and dramas unfolding before her in her works. Hanging this kind of piece on the wall of your gallery or your home allows you to open a window into the past and into the beauty of the scene that inspired the creation of the work. Bond has stated that she views these moments as “little theaters,” and she uses this inspiration to help her to capture incredibly emotive and special moments in time.
There is something intensely familiar and also a bit alien that is native to the way that Bond creates Impressionist art. You know for sure that you are seeing a city scene, and you can even smell and hear the moment as you take in the scene before you. And yet the sense of bright color and attention to the feeling of the piece can change how you feel about the moments that you have spent in these kinds of places. You will feel attracted to the color in the scene and the sense of movement and realize that maybe you did not notice these things when you were last on a city street.
Bond is also highly skilled at creating a sense of three-dimensional motion in her works. They fairly leap off the canvas right at you. You feel immediately transported inside the painting as if you have walked through a portal and are standing in the middle of the busy city street that Bond had captured on canvas. This is a very special effect that Bond has created through her unique painting application techniques, cementing her place as one of the up-and-coming Impressionist painters who is leaving a mark on the new Impressionist movement.
Unraveling the Unique Appeal and Motion in Impressionist Cityscape Artworks
While there are many fine examples of cityscapes painted in the Impressionist style, they are not the most common of the subjects that are captured by Impressionist painters. This was true during the early movement, and it is still true today. If you love a cityscape that has been created with Impressionist techniques, you will need to check out the skilled creations of painters like Elena Bond. Learning more about the classics can also help you to recognize the foundation for this kind of painting, and it can make it easier for you to recognize paintings of this style when you are building your collection.
Cityscapes are like small snapshots into the way that life was lived in the moment that the painter felt moved to create a work of art. There is something so human and so inspiring about these kinds of works of art, and many people like to make this the subject matter that they focus on as they collect art. You might struggle to find extensive examples of this kind of subject matter within the Impressionist movement, but these pieces are so special that the effort is worth it.