1860’s France. This is where the Impressionist movement got its start. It began with painting but later in music as well. Impressionism is characterized by its concern with depicting visual impressions of the moment – shifting the effect of light and color. They used thin, small but visible brush strokes of ordinary subject matter in a colorful palette with the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human experience and perception
The originators of the impressionism movement faced harsh opposition from the conventional art community in France as well as the public. As with many new styles the hostility eventually turned to acceptance and realization that they, in fact had a new, fresh look with original style. Like many major art movements they were considered “radicals” because they violated the rules of traditional art by painting with free and looser brush strokes rather than the traditional painters who focused on carefully constructed lines, contours and smoother brush strokes.
Besides the change in style with freely constructed brush strokes, the leaders of the impressionist movement changed how paintings were done – prior to this time portraits, still life or even landscapes were painted in the studio. The impressionists found that painting en plein aire (onsite, outdoors) fit their style and focus much more.
Traditional landscapes were created with a palette of muted browns, greens and grays. Impressionists leaned toward a brighter, sunnier palette with more intense colors. The shadows were no longer painted in blacks and grays but in complimentary colors (opposites on the color wheel). This was done because of their desire to create impressions of life in the moment. They used color in completely new ways to create movement in their work and represent the play of light on surfaces such as water or the intensity between light and shadow.
There were many, many artists involved in this movement but the ones you may know include: Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley. Among many, these artists became dissatisfied with early in their careers with the academic norms of teaching and emphasis on the traditional subjects of historical or religious significance or mythology.
By the late 1860s Manet’s work reflected a new look which was highly influential in the impressionist movement. Traditional subject matter became less and less important as the “live in the moment” painting and the manipulation of color, light and texture
By about the mid 1880s the group of impressionists began to dissolve as they began to pursue their own aesthetics. The movement was short-lived, only a couple decades but the effects of it lasted and continue to be important today in the art of many. It also sparked a starting point for the post impressionists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Georges Seurat and Paul Gauguin.
This movement, in a huge way, influences the work I create now. Although not seen, the influence is in thinking. My work is very abstract but the importance of the “moment” is very significant. One of the reasons I love the impressionist paintings is because of the capturing of every day life, small moments. I love the way it came across in their work but I love that they were no longer satisfied with painting things they have not seen (history) or things they would never see (mythology) and began to live in their own lives and record those lives.
Impressionism influences me now…
The visual appearance in my work is nothing like that of the impressionists, but the idea of enjoying life is something I cling to. I have young children and I want to enjoy the little, everyday moments with them – I draw bits and pieces of those moments and than turn them into paintings and use some of the funny phrases they used as toddlers and use them as painting titles so I do not forget those precious moments. I love the art of the impressionists for both the aesthetic and especially the embracing of the simple life moments.
To the right is my paiting titled “deeped up”. My oldest was two years old and I had taken him to play in the snow for the first time. He was excited because there were other kids playing in it but he was also a little scared. He had a look of pure joy on his face but then looked at me and says with intensity “what if I go out there and get all deeped up in that snow?” It was a funny, precious moment so I painted “Deeped Up” – so while the impressionists may have no visual influence on this series of paintings, their in the moment feeling is what this series is all about…. enjoying simple moments in life that are sometimes taken for granted and maybe even forgotten.
There is just so much to choose from when looking for impressionist art… I could post images all day long there are so many – I just went through the ginormous list and found some I liked to show. Impressionism is just so beautiful and again, one of my favorite characteristics of this movement is the introduction of painting the moment, every day life that often gets overlooked and that, at the time was not painted…ever. This art is well worth the look and well worth owning – even as a little reminder to look at the daily things in our own lives worth appreciating!