Impressionist art dates back to a 19th-century art movement. The paintings that were created using this style of art have long been heralded as some of the most beautiful works that have ever been made. Modern artists still paint using this method, and the new interpretations of this classic art style are just as beautiful and unique as the original works.

Impressionism is characterized by specific brush strokes and color usage and is focused on accentuating the passage of time. There is something delightfully dream-like yet present about this art form, which is probably why it has enjoyed such lasting popularity among art lovers. Impressionist works continue to be sought after even today, and impressionist painters working to interpret this classic style in new ways have been received with open arms.

What is Impressionism?

The Impressionist movement dates back to the early 19th century. It is characterized by a focus on the passage of time as well as unusual visual angles that feel natural and accidental all at once. This style of painting also uses small and thin brush strokes that are not disguised and that depict light and movement with great accuracy. The original artists who started this movement were based in Paris, and they rose to great prominence during the 1870s and 1880s. The pieces of art that were made famous during this period of the Impressionist movement include the works of Claude Monet and Eugene Delacroix, among others.

Impressionist artists were considered to be artistic rebels during their day. They violated all of the rules of painting that were considered inviolable during their era. The sense of movement and the natural nature of the subjects of these works were considered to be highly aberrant and not at all beautiful by art experts. However, art lovers responded to them with fascination and pleasure, and the opinion of art experts was forced to slowly shift to accommodate these works as genius rather than stark rebellion.

Impressionism marks a focused movement away from portrait- painting and still-life works and shows some of the first efforts of artists to depict emotion in their paintings rather than the stark reality of the scene which gave rise to the work. The acceptance of Impressionism made it possible for other movements to gain acceptance as well, such as the Neo-Impressionist movement, Post-Impressionism, and Cubism.

Impressionism as a Movement

Edouard Manet is considered one of the most influential Impressionist painters, and he stands out from the crowd due to his commitment to the ideals of the movement. Some painters like Degas moved away from impressionism later in their careers because they felt that they did not identify with the movement that had led to its creation any longer. This identifies the truly religious nature of Impressionist values for some painters at the time and shows that Impressionism wasn’t just a painting style to devotees.

Manet records the intense emotions and harsh realities of life as experienced by artists and everyday people during the Impressionist movement. The world was growing increasingly connected due to expansionism, and worldwide trade and contact with other countries and cultures probably impacted some of the styling and the feeling behind the Impressionist movement. One has only to look at the sad and rather desperate reality that is conveyed by some of the other artworks of the same period to understand what the Impressionist movement was trying to overcome. Charles Dickens wrote about the harsh, sad, and often poignant and painful lives of the poor in Britain, an existence that would be familiar to many people who felt inspired and hopeful when confronted with the beauty and immediacy of Impressionist art.

The Great War was looming on the horizon, and conflict all across Europe was brewing and breaking out in a variety of smaller and yet devastating conflicts. Impressionist artists longed for beauty in the world and hope, and their rebellion against still life works and boring and constrained creations shows just how they were straining freedom from staid and classist social structures.

New Impressionism is guided by the same principles as the first Impressionist movement. This is a current art movement that speaks to the tumultuous and rebellious feelings of people all over the world who feel yoked to old systems and institutions that no longer serve their needs. Art often reflects social sentiments, and Impressionism is so closely tied to the feelings of the everyday person that it can easily speak to and influence the emotions that art lovers and artists alike are experiencing.

Impressionism As An Art


Impressionist Techniques

The techniques that make this style possible are well-recorded and are consistent across the works of those who are considered classic Impressionist painters. The following painting techniques are common to Impressionist works:

  •         Short and thick brush strokes are common to this painting style, and they are meant to capture the essence of something and not the minute details. The paint is applied impasto when using this method.
  •         Colors are applied with very little mixing, and they employ the use of the simultaneous contrast principle in their art to make the color appear vivid and yet blended all at once.
  •         Paintings are made over a white or light-colored background rather than a gray or charcoal-colored background.
  •         No glazing-style paints are used to produce the effects of the Impressionist art style. This has been a major part of the blending process in other painting styles, but it sets the paint strokes more strongly than Impressionist painters desired.
  •         Impressionism avoids the use of black paints, and grays, and other dark tones are made through blending colors.
  •         Wet paint is placed onto wet paint without waiting for the previous layers to dry. This makes for softer edges and intermingled strokes that are what is the most immediately obvious about Impressionist works.
  •         The painting of light is emphasized, and it is often done using the effects de soir painting style when working to create evening light.
  •         When painting shadows in the daytime, the shadows are indicated with the same blue as the sky to create a sense of freshness.

Part of what made Impressionist art possible was the creation of synthetic pigments as well as paints sold in thin tubes. This allowed for the mixing style used in Impressionist works to be possible for the first time. Modern paints are sold in many different formulas and it is quite possible for modern artists to recreate these painting methods exactly if they wish. There are also variations of this original style of painting that are quite common in today’s Impressionist art that use a portion of the above styling without adhering to its rules entirely.

Impressionist Subjects

The subjects of Impressionist works were just as unique in their day as the brush strokes that made them. The compositions often involve the main subject that is quite clearly at the forefront of the piece, and there is often a sense of romance or whimsy to the subjects and their creation. The goal was often to create an image that looked like a snapshot of the moment, and the subjects were often captured engaged in daily activities in relaxed poses or even poses that would normally be considered unattractive.

The most common subjects were people living their everyday lives or even landscapes that involved movement. Boats on the water, people walking along city streets, and other subjects are quite common in this painting style. This might have been in part due to the rise of photography which could capture an entirely new kind of image that did not utilize the imagination of a painter in its creation.

Artists in the Impressionist era felt that the photograph devalued artists and painting as a whole, and they responded by developing an art form that could mimic photography and yet offer a depth of feeling that photography could not always capture. Combined with the influences of ukiyo-e art prints that had become popular to import from Japan, Impressionist works captured scenes from daily life with movement, color, and boldness that previous painting styles had not allowed for.

Impressionism A Form of Art

New Impressionism Today

Impressionist works are still as popular and moving today as they were in the late 1800s. New Impressionist painters use the foundation of the original Impressionist movement to create art that offers a sense of movement, color, and enthusiasm for life that other mediums of art cannot always capture. This is one of the most lasting art movements that has ever been recognized, and the beauty and emotion of the pieces of art that have been created in this style are just as poignant and moving today.

Impressionism continues to be one of the most emotionally relevant and highly communicative painting styles that are used today. The current pieces that are being created using the Impressionist style are just as ground-breaking and unique as the pieces that gave rise to the Impressionist movement in the 1800s.