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General Overview

Impressionism began in France when a group of young and talented artists decided to rebel against the established art critics, called the Salon in France, and form a new style of painting all their own. Impressionists wanted to capture a moment in time. Critics said that their work was merely "impressions" of reality and the name stuck.

When was the Impressionist style of art popular?

The Impressionist movement began in the 1860s and became most popular in the 1870s and 1880s.

What are the characteristics of Impressionism?

The Impressionists wanted to capture a moment in time. They were more concerned with the light and color of the moment than with the details of objects they were painting. They often painted outdoors and worked quickly to capture the light before it changed. They used rapid brush strokes and often used unmixed color to save time. They used unusual visual angles and common everyday subjects.

Examples of Impressionist Art

Dance at Le moulin de la Galette (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

This painting depicts an outdoor scene of a dance on Sunday afternoon in Paris. Renoir captures the afternoon light flickering as it filters through the trees. The painting captures a moment in time. It is one of the most famous of the Impressionist paintings. A smaller version of it once sold for over $78 million!

Dance at Le moulin de la Galette
(Click image to see larger version)

Lydia Leaning on Her Arms in a Theatre Box (Mary Cassatt)

This painting is an example of an Impressionist portrait. The quick and sweeping brush strokes capture the moment of the girl leaning forward in anticipation at the opera. The girl, Lydia, appears relaxed and confident. The colors are bright and capture the lighting prior to the show beginning.

Lydia Leaning on Her Arms in a Theatre Box
(Click image to see larger version)

Paris Street: Rainy Day (Gustave Caillebotte)

This Impressionist painting gives the feeling of a photograph. It appears to capture people as they are casually walking down the street in the rain. Although this painting has sharper images than many impressionist paintings, it still captures a fleeting moment in time including the light and the weather conditions.

Paris Street: Rainy Day
(Click image to see larger version)

Famous Impressionist Artists
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