Impressionism

Article

October 17, 2021

Impressionism is an art movement that originated from painting. The movement had its cradle in France in the second half of the nineteenth century. Initially, it arose as a revolt against the academic art that was then generally accepted and officially recognized by the state. It eventually developed into a totally new stylistic conception that stood at the cradle of twentieth century modernism. Typical aspects of impressionism are the focus on the experience of the moment ('impression'), the choice of themes from 'modern life', the special attention to light effects and color, a sketch-like method and working in the open air. Among the best-known representatives were painters such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne. The Impressionists exhibited their work between 1874 and 1886 at eight self-organized exhibitions in Paris. After 1886 their role as innovator was taken over by neo- and post-impressionist groups, although the movement would still have important heydays after that time in various countries outside France. Impressionism can still boast great popularity in the twenty-first century. Themed exhibitions and Impressionist departments of major museums attract high numbers of visitors. Impressionist masterpieces can compete with 'old masters' in terms of prices. Impressionism also worked in other art forms, such as classical music, literature, sculpture and photography.

Style and features

There is no general theory of impressionism. Renoir once said, “I have no rules or methods. Anyone can come and see what I use or watch me paint. They will see that I have no secrets'. The question of what typifies impressionism cannot therefore be answered unequivocally and can differ greatly from one artist to another. Nevertheless, there are a number of criteria that are generally seen as distinctive:

Impression, sketchy method

In the first place, reference can be made to the term 'impression', which became pre-eminently part of the Impressionist vocabulary: the immediate experience of the moment, often a random scene from everyday life, without any further message or purpose. In the rendering it was no longer about an objective registration of reality, but above all the subjective perception of the artist who became leading, with a lot of attention for atmosphere. The artist was satisfied and 'done' as soon as the impression was recorded, which often reinforced the spontaneous and sketchy impression of a work of art: as if it had been put on canvas in a few minutes, in a loose touch, not yet completely finished. The smooth brushstrokes and the apparently sloppy execution can be seen as metaphors for the fleeting moment and the speed of everyday life.

Contemporary Life Themes

Although portraits and landscapes also remained in vogue, Impressionism was also innovative in its themes, which were often chosen from contemporary and everyday life. For the first time, workers, prostitutes, bar-goers, random passers-by and other 'ordinary people' were systematically made the subject of a painting, often in locations where modern life was par excellence: stations, bridges and parks, opera houses, beaches, regattas. , and so forth. The changing Paris, which was transformed in the 1860s by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann from an old city full of medieval alleys into a modern metropolis with wide boulevards, was the ideal backdrop for this. Making the 'impressions' of changing life the focal point of their art, the Impressionists emphasized the aspect of individuality, which would become a feature of the new, modern society. In this sense, the impr

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