The Impressionist Movement: A History
The Impressionist art movement started in France during the rule of Napoleon III, it started as a protest by four painters whose works were rejected on moral grounds. The group of painters consisted of Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Frédéric Bazille. They held their first exhibition in 1874, which was named the ‘Exposition des Refusés’. The works shown in this exhibition were not only rejected by the Salon, but they also shocked the public with their new style which was very different from the traditional art of the time.
2. The history of the Impressionist movement
-The origins of the movement
The origins of the Impressionist movement can be traced back to France in the early 1860s. At this time, France was going through a period of great change; Napoleon III had recently been elected as President and he was keen to modernize the country. One of his first projects was to redevelop Paris; he commissioned Haussmann to build new boulevards and parks, and to demolish old slums. This redevelopment led to an increase in tourism, as people came from all over Europe to see the ‘new’ Paris.
In 1865, Napoleon III held an international exhibition in Paris, which showcased the latest technology and art from all over the world. The exhibition was a huge success and it made people aware of the different styles of art that were being created outside of France. Many French artists were influenced by these new styles, and they began to experiment with different techniques and compositions in their own work.
-The development of the movement
In 1874, a group of French artists who would later become known as the Impressionists held their first exhibition. The exhibition was called the ‘Exposition des Refusés’ (the Exhibition of Rejects) because all of the paintings that were shown had been rejected by the Salon. The Salon was a prestigious exhibition that was held every year in Paris, and it was seen as the only place where ‘serious’ artists could showcase their work. The fact that these artists were holding their own exhibition outside of the Salon showed that they were not afraid to challenge convention.
The paintings that were shown at the ‘Exposition des Refusés’ shocked many people because they were so different from anything that had been seen before. The artists were experimenting with new techniques, such as painting outdoors (en plein air) and using bright colors. They were also interested in capturing everyday scenes and subjects, rather than painting idealized versions of reality like most other artists at that time.
-The final years of the movement
In 1886, Claude Monet moved to Giverny, where he painted a series of landscapes featuring his famous water lilies. These paintings marked a change in Monet’s style; they were much more abstract than his earlier work, and they focused on capturing light and color rather than realistic detail. This new style influenced other Impressionist artists, who began to experiment with more abstract compositions in their own work.
By 1888, most of the original Impressionists had stopped exhibiting together; instead, they each pursued their own style and subject matter. However, they continued to be connected through their shared interest in painting en plein air and capturing the effects of light and color.
The Impressionist movement came to an end in the early 1900s, when most of the original artists had died or stopped painting. However, the techniques and compositions that they developed have had a lasting influence on art, and their work is still considered to be some of the most important and influential paintings ever created.
3. The techniques used by Impressionist painters
One of the most distinctive features of Impressionist paintings is their use of color. The artists were interested in capturing the effects of light, and they used a wide range of colors in their paintings to achieve this. They also applied these colors in thin layers, which allowed them to create a more delicate and subtle effect than was possible with the thicker paints that were being used at that time.
Another distinctive feature of Impressionist paintings is their use of light. The artists often painted outdoors (en plein air), and they were interested in capturing the changing effects of light throughout the day. To do this, they used a technique called ‘broken color’, where they applied different colors side by side in order to create the impression of light shining through.
In the late 1800s, photography became increasingly popular, and many people began to see it as a threat to traditional art forms such as painting. However, some artists saw photography as a way to capture moments and scenes that would otherwise be impossible to paint. Claude Monet was one of these artists; he often took photographs of his landscapes before painting them, so that he could capture the exact light conditions that he wanted to recreate in his paintings.
4. The composition of Impressionist paintings
One of the things that set Impressionist paintings apart from other art at that time was their choice of subject matter. Most other artists were interested in painting idealized versions of reality, but the Impressionists were more interested in capturing everyday scenes and subjects. This was partly due to their interest in painting en plein air; by painting outdoors, they were able to capture a wider range of subjects than if they had been working in a studio.
Some of the most popular subjects for Impressionist paintings were landscapes, cityscapes, and scenes from everyday life. However, the artists were not afraid to experiment with other subjects, and they oftenpainted portraits, still lifes and even seascapes.
A number of different factors influenced the choice of subject matter for an Impressionist painting. The artist’s own interests played a role, as did the time of day and the weather conditions on the day that they were painting. location also played a part; many of the artists often painted near their homes or studios, so they were familiar with the local landscape and its inhabitants. Whatever the subject matter, an important goal for all Impressionist painters was to capture a moment in time; they wanted their paintings to be like snapshots of life, rather than idealized visions of reality. This goal led them to experiment with different techniques, such as using contrasting colors or broken brushstrokes, which helped to create a sense of movement and energy in their paintings…
Most Impressionist paintings are characterized by their use of a shallow depth of field. This means that the foreground, middle ground and background are all equally blurred, and it gives the painting a sense of immediacy. This was partly due to the fact that many of the artists were painting en plein air, and they didn’t have time to focus on creating a detailed background.
Another reason for the shallow depth of field in Impressionist paintings is that the artists were interested in capturing light and color, rather than realistic detail. This meant that they often used a wide range of colors in their paintings, which helped to create the impression of light shining through.
The final element of composition that we will look at is framing. Most Impressionist paintings are characterized by their use of an ‘open’ composition, where the main subject is not centered in the frame. This was partly due to the fact that many of the artists were painting outdoors, and they didn’t have time to worry about perfectly framing their subjects.
The open composition also helped to create a sense of movement and energy in the paintings, as it gave the impression that the viewer was seeing a scene ‘in real time’. This was an important goal for the Impressionists, as they wanted their paintings to be like snapshots of life, rather than static images.
In conclusion, the Impressionist art movement was a protest against the traditional art of the time. The artists involved were interested in experimenting with new techniques and compositions, and they were not afraid to challenge convention. The techniques that they developed, such as painting en plein air and using broken brushstrokes, have had a lasting influence on art, and their work is still considered to be some of the most important and influential paintings ever created.