Impressionism: A Revolutionary Art Movement

A painting requires a little mystery some vagueness and fantasy. Today the impressionist technique is one of the most admired in the history of art. But this wasn’t always the case.

At one time this style and those who adopted it were scorned and rejected by the public. Impressionism was a rebellion of the art world breaking tradition and defying the Paris Salon, Impressionism was truly a revolution.

But before going into impressionism consider where art was previously. During the Middle Ages art was used mainly for religious purposes. Perspective was terrible and people were often posed very naturally.

During the Renaissance, things got better. Leonardo Da Vinci is known for his Vitruvian Man, a diagram for perspective.

Religious and mythical themes are still the most common for portraits, but portraits and still lifes are also emerging on the scene. Artists were striving to make their paintings as realistic as possible.

Europe is the center of the art world, during the Renaissance it had been Italy, but Paris soon took over the impressionism movement. This abrupt change is marked by the events happing in Paris at the time. Paris was a bustle of colorful social life and events.

There was amazing architecture, the opera, and the city was being renovated, streets were being lined with trees and gardens would be expanded. A dramatic change had taken place all over Europe.

Centuries before France went undergone major revolutionary politically. The revolution had ripped France apart and people have been through terror. Now it seemed enlightenment was taking place.

People were in science, art, literature, and music, etc. writers, musicians, and artists were having their heyday. Beginning in 1737 AD art exhibitions were held in the Louvre and in the Salon Carre.

The salon became very strict and many of the artists sought to be accepted by the jury, in fact, the salon really marked the beginning of severe art criticism. In 1863 AD of the 5000 paintings that were submitted to the salon, over half were thrown out.

Napoleon III instituted the “Salon Des Refuse” where rejected artists were able to display their artwork. Edouard Manet was one painter who was frequently rejected by the public and the salon.

He had a more realistic style compared to the other impressionists, yet he is called the Father of Impressionism. Today he is viewed as revolutionary, but he did not view himself that way Emile Zola the famous writer and good friend of Manet described him as “a man of exquisite politeness and extreme amiability”.

He wanted the acceptance of society and the Parisian salons. He was influenced by his other friend poet Baudelaire.

Baudelaire criticized art and Manet responded to his desire to move on. With their paintings in contemporary scenes in sub-dwelling in the past, many styles of paintings may not be like the other impressionist, but he advanced the content.

Soon many had many followers, and fellow artists who were breaking away from tradition were adopting this new style.  

Instead of portraying a scene from history, it was all about the visual feeling, impressionism was breaking away from the exactness and harsh clarity of previous realistic styles.

Many paintings were done outside in plain air, instead of having someone pose, landscape and everyday life were the subjects.

And also instead of the shades of black and gray, the artists used colors for shadows, and brushstrokes were broken and feathery.

Colors were not mixed but applied thickly and boldly. For example, to create green, yellow, and blue would be applied together in different strokes thereat would be up to the viewer.

It was the overall impression you would get from the painting.

The name impressionism came from a criticism of the painting by Claude Monet “Impression Sunrise”.

In 1873 in the Chiavari Paper, a critic named Louis Leroy said for Impression,

“I was certain that I was just telling myself that since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it who want freedom would ease of workmanship. A preliminary drawing from wallpaper is more finished than this seascape.”

He attacked the easy unfinished style that was Monet’s painting. Despite the fact that this was criticism the name stuck and the painters eventually adopted the name themselves.

Claude Monet is best known for his breathtaking paintings of his gardens but also for some of the daily life of Paris and the coast of Normandy where he grew up.

He cultivated a magnificent extensive garden, which can still be visited today.

When looking at his gardens it was easy to see from where he got inspiration in 1899 he began to paint these gardens, the works which later became his most famous. Edgar Degas is another key impressionist.

He is most famous for his paintings of ballet dancers. His soft and colorful paintings captured dancers and emotions.

Some of his early subjects were musicians and washerwomen but he also spends a lot of time on the race’s popular attraction of the day.

Degas gained an interest in ballet and began studying dancers as his main subject for painting.

He painted them by photographing the dances capturing them in natural and awkward positions as they practiced.

Many of Degas’s paintings are characterized by the resemblance to a snapshot scene caught at interesting angles or looking like they were partially cut off.

Some other artists who played an important role in the impressionist movement were Pierre Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt, Camille Pissarro, and Berthe Morusot.

But the impressionist movement was moving beyond France. After the late 1870s impressionism was being accepted, and international artists are adopting this style.

Impressionism progressed in the art scene, artists developed their own style.

Vincent van Gogh was not part of the early impressionist ear, but he was a follower of this art form he used vibrant unmixed paint applied in thick broken strokes.

Impressionism led to more abstract styles such as modernism and cubism. Artists began to see art as a way not to just copy reality or regurgitate history but to evoke emotion and be symbolic and imaginative.

Impressionism revolutionizes art not just in Paris but in the world. After the death of Camille Pissarro, the impressionist movement was rightly recognized as the most important revolution in art, of the century.

The beauty these artists portrayed lasted long beyond their lifetime and continues to captivate long after they died.

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