Impressionism is considered the first significant movement in painting and was mostly adopted by French painters. Impressionism broke the standard convention of exhibiting work at state salons and academies. They created paintings that showed colour, tone and light more following the artist’s ideas than the subject itself. Painters wanted to hold independent exhibitions beginning in 1860s Paris. The style then spread all over Europe and the U.S.
Some Common Characteristics of Impressionism
Impressionism was a style that told a story using realistic scenes. Changes to the way that light was shown and the use of the brush was different from previous styles The painter typically used small thin brushstrokes with lots of movement, atmosphere and changes in light that were experimented with often. In contrast, paint is usually laid on a surface thickly enough so that painting and knife strokes can be seen.
Rather than painting scenes which depicted history or mythology, the artists wanted to show more modern and contemporary views of the bourgeois enjoying life both in nature and in urban areas. Colour and tone were more exact, and the perceptions of the artist’s subject matter were more important than the subject itself. Painters wanted pure colour and paint on the surface became more important to change perspective.
The blue sky is seen reflecting onto surfaces to demonstrate more freshness. Colour is sometimes mixed on the surface and often placed into wet paint to make softer edges and more intermingling.
Earlier traditions of painting started with darker layers of paint and then lighter layers which dried before a smooth finish. It could take weeks or months for a picture to be finished. However, impressionists used a single layer that was unglazed, and a mistake would be taken down to an empty canvas. This can be painted over again. Patches of colour were used instead of lighter or darker shades to show the closeness to the light.
Painters often did their work in the evening to show the shadows at this time. Objects and people usually had no outline and appear to be shapes when viewed close up with this style. There are different points of view, posing and movement on the canvas, making the painting seem as though it was a snapshot of something bigger captured in that moment.
Some famous impressionists include 19th-century artists such as Claude Monet. “Impression Sunrise” was created in 1872 showing a harbour and the port of Le Havre. A ship sails at sunset with different colour contrasts. “Luncheon of the Boating Party” by Pierre Auguste Renoir was painted between 1880 and 1881. It shows several people dining, eating and socialising on a boat and captures the movement and light in a true impressionistic style.
When people first see an impressionistic painting, they are captured not only by the colour and light but also the realistic scenes. The style shifts away from showing more serious subject to bourgeois scenes and uses the canvas, layering and brush strokes differently from the past.