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Impressionism - An Overview
Posted by Graphica on 11/2/2008 4:07:51 PM (ET)
Filed Under: General
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Impressionism was the first of the modern art movements. Although Manet formed the bridge from the art of Courbet to Impressionism, the name was derived from Monet's painting "Impression, Sunrise" (1872: Paris, Musee Marmottan). In this painting, the light plays on the water as the spectator looks directly into the rising sun. Impressionism's goal was to portray naturalism at its finest, with exact tones and colors. Light played such an important role, how it hit objects and how it played on the surface of the subjects. Impressionists used shimmering touches of brightly colored paint applied in small dabs, along with no firm outlines.

The Impressionists were more concerned with the contrasts between light and dark, daylight and twilight than they were with portraying a human figure's actual face, for instance. They sought to portray a general impression of objects, events or views, instead of painting in detail. In other words, the artist painted what he glimpsed, rather than what he saw by scrutinizing and recording details. Instantaneous vision was the key operative in Impressionist works, as compared to the personal visions that were so important to the movement that followed, Expressionism. Superficial appearances were more important than inner form or structure. The artists painted quickly in the open, rather than laboring over their works in a studio. These techniques were unique and new, and the public did not receive them well.

The first Impressionism exhibit was held in 1874, but Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Cezanne, Degas, Guilaumin, Boudin, Berthe Morisot and others rebelled and held their own independent exhibition because of the public's outrage at their work. The best decade of Impressionism was from 1870-1880. However, many of the artists continued to produce works for many years to come, although some, like Degas, Renoir and Cezanne, moved away from Impressionism.

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