Exploring Art Movements: Impressionism

Impressionism was a mid 19th century art movement that began in Paris. This style has influenced generations of artists and even today, we see traces of Impressionism in several artworks. Here’s more information about this art movement.

The effects of industrialization were felt not just in the world of commerce, but also in the world of art. With the emergence of the moneyed middle-class, artists began receiving commissions from the nouveau riche, whose choice of imagery was vastly different from that of the nobility. Instead of noblemen or biblical figures, they desired to see themselves in paintings. This, along with the invention of paint tubes which facilitated painting in the outdoors, led to a significant change in the subjects and themes of paintings. This was also the time when photography began to emerge as a popular documentary art form. Artists of the time had to compete with the realism and spontaneity of photographs and hence, apart from shifting their focus to ordinary people and everyday situations, they also strove to channel a personal perception onto canvas.

Here’s how to recognize an impressionist painting:

Impressionist painters were obsessed with colour and light. One notices bright, pure colours, complementary tones and prominent brushstrokes. Also, the focus was on capturing ‘fleeting moments,’ that is capturing in perfect detail (lighting, colour) the moment they are painting.

Paintings are of landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes. There is an absence of definite outlines separating the subject from the background. Shapes and figures are blurry, features are vague or absent.

Important names and paintings from the period are:

Artist: Claude Monet

Painting: Woman with a Parasol



Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Painting: Bal du moulin de la Galette



Artist: Edgar Degas

Painting: L’Absinthe



Artist: Edouard Manet

Painting: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe