Impressionism and Impressionist Painters

"Impressions, Sunlight" painted by Claude Monet, one of the originals of the Impressionist painters in Paris.
"Impressions, Sunlight" painted by Claude Monet, one of the originals of the Impressionist painters in Paris. | Source

Impressionism Movement

The above painting by Claude Monet started the beginning of the Impressionism Movement in art in Paris, France in the 19th century, and it was this painting, named Impression, Sunlight, that gave the entire movement its name. The emphasis on color and lighting gave this movement something new that the previous style, realism, did not have. Instead of composition, content and the figure(s) being the emphasis when looking at a painting, now the freshness and spontaneity of the picture on the canvas was like an "impression", a photo snapshot of a moment in time.

Thus began my favorite art movement of all time. I have several reproductions of Monet, Cassatt and Seurat hanging in my condo in Ohio. The play of light on the leaves, flowers and people in the pictures are what delight me and relax me when I look at them. The visible brushstrokes on the open compostions, and unusual visual angles of the paintings are always interesting to me. Each time I look at one of these Impressionist paintings, it notice something different. An unusual color, a different angle of brush stroke, a piece of light reflecting that I never noticed before. The intermingling of color(s) never ceases to amaze and delight me. As I have said before in other art articles, color and lighting are the two elements I look for first in a painting and what pleases my eye the most, and the Impressionist paintings emphasis is on those two elements: colors and lighting.

My favorite painters from the Impressionism movement are: Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt. The only American in the group is Mary Cassat and the rest are all French. Each one of these artists represents the Impressionism Movement in art in their own individual painting manner and style. All were part of the original group of Paris-based artists that came too prominence during the 1870's and 1880's through independent exhibitions and painted in their own styles despite harsh criticism and opposition from the conventional art community in Paris.

And, of course, the conventional art community in Paris, France was the acclaimed Academie de Beaux Arts that dominated French art at the time. This Academie was the preserver of traditional French painting standards of content and style for years and years. Historical subjects, religious themes, and portraits were valued (landscapes and still life were not) and the Academie preferred carefully finished images that looked realistic when examined closely. The colors of the paintings were somber and conservative and traces of brush strokes were suppressed. Think, El Greco and Velazquez. The Academie was more in the vein of the Old Masters.

The Impressionist painters were more interested in painting landscapes and contemporary life of the common man than recreating historical or mythological scenes. They had a fresher more spontaneous approach to painting than those before them. Impressionism was the art of immediacy and movement, candid poses and open compositions, of the play of light expressed in a bright and varied use of color. This can all be seen in Monet's Impressions, Sunlight pictured above. At first, the public was hostile to Impressionism but gradually believed that Impressionism had captured a fresh aand original vision.

The Impressionist painters mentioned above were unified by their spirit of independence and rebellion to the traditional paintings of the Academie. They exhibited together, along with some other Impressionists, eight times between 1874 and 1886, and this group of Impressionists express the Impressionist style and techniques the best:

  • short, thick strokes of paint quickly caspture the essence of the subject, rather than the details
  • colors are applied side by side with as little mixing as possible. The mixing of colors occurs in the viewer's eyes
  • grays and dark tones are produced by mixing complementary colors and usually avoids the use of black paint (because black is the absence of color)
  • wet paint is placed on wet paint without waiting for successsive applications to dry therefore producing softer edges and intermingling of colors
  • painters often worked in the evenings to produce the shadowy effects of evening or twilight
  • play of natural light is emphasize. Close attention is paid to the reflection of colors from object to object.
  • in paintings done outdoors, the shadows are boldly painted with the blue of the sky as it is reflected onto surfaces (for example, blue shadows on snow)

My Favorite Impressionist Painters

Below, are paintings of my favorite Impressionist painters. Each painting is an example of their individual style and Impressionist technique(s). I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

I studied these painters in college and then over my years of living and traveling in Europe, visited the great art museums of Europe to see these paintings in person. I know I have been very fortunate to be able to do this and for some reason I have always been drawn to Europe and the great art museums there.

I was fortunate to live near the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio and have been able to attend classes and workshops on art and artists at the museum over the years. I guess art has been a vocation of mine for some time - I even have taken some drawing classes through the Cleveland Museum of Art - and I actually have a little bit of natural drawing talent. Someday, perhaps I'll get up the nerve to show a drawing or two. Of course, it took me thirty years to reveal my poetry, so I don't know how soon my drawings would ever appear. But, in between the times when "life was happening," I took the time to "smell the roses" and to view the most beautiful paintings in the world.
And yes, I know, I am a bit of an egg head for hanging out in art museums, but to me paintings mezmerize and relax me. Now, to share my favoites with you.

Another Claude Monet

"Woman with a Parasol"
"Woman with a Parasol" | Source

Paul Cezanne

'Still Life With a Curtain" 1895
'Still Life With a Curtain" 1895 | Source

Pierre-Auguste Renoir

"Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette"  1876  Musee d'Orsay   Paris, France
"Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette" 1876 Musee d'Orsay Paris, France | Source

Edgar Degas

"Dancers at the Bar"  1888  The Phillips Collection,  Washington, DC
"Dancers at the Bar" 1888 The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC | Source

Mary Cassatt

"Lydia Leaning on Her Arms"  1879
"Lydia Leaning on Her Arms" 1879 | Source

Which Impressionist artist's painting is your favorite?

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Comments 22 comments

TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

Fantastic hub! Thank you for explaining the Impressionism Art Movement and sharing the works of some of the famous artists. Their work is beautiful. Voted up and more. :)

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this article. Yes, the Impressionists painters do have beautiful paintings.

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this informative piece

BeyondMax profile image

BeyondMax 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Very beautiful hub, so much love here expressed for Impressionists. My favorite of all times is Edgar Degas, although he called himself realist instead of Impressionist, I still think he is one of the best representatives of the movement. My favorite is his "L'Absinthe" and I do, too, love art and hang out in the museums, so you are not alone, this nerdle spent lots of hours in museums all over the world, art exhibitions and so on =)

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Your welcome. It was a labor of love!

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suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Degas' Ballarinas were always a favorite of mine also. Yes,although Degas was an Impressionist, he believed the figures in paintings should be drawn and clearly defined. Each Impressionist painter was highly individualistic with their own styles. But all painted beautifully! Yes, L' Abisinth is great and I have seen that one also, If you spend time in museums then you are a kindred spirit! Thanks so much for reading and thank you for your insightful comments. They are deeply appreciated!

Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

This is a beautiful introduction to impressionism, suzettenaples. I too ma a big fan of the movement and relish the colors and the intermingling of light and shadows. I love Degas pastels and Monet's vivid colors. They have a quality if impinging on ones mind far more than 'realistic' pains because they invite the viewer to participate far more. Its kinda like the difference between reading a book and participating in the visuals with our brain to just watching a film. Impressionists paintings are indeed, like books to read. voted up and awesome.

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Docmo: Thank you so much for reading and your insightful comments. I love the comparison your write at the end - they are like books that you can really get into and explore. I also see them as like Photographs - just capturing a moment in time for us to see. I think that is why I love this period of art so much. I'm glad you enjoyed this article. I enjoyed writing it.

Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Suzette, what a wonderful, wonderful hub - I am a big fan of Claude Monet and I loved this!

Well researched and well written, fabulous - voting up and shared.

Best wishes Lesley

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi Lesley: Yes, Impressionism is one of my favorite movements in art. I really enjoy the paintings from this time period. Thanks so much for stopping by to read and view and for your kind comments.

Gypsy48 profile image

Gypsy48 4 years ago

Lovely hub! I have also visited the great museums in Europe and have spent hours just admiring the works of such talented artists of their time. I favor Degas but they all great.

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Gypsy: Isn't a treat to have seen these paintings up close and personal. We are so fortunate to have had that experience. Each on of these painters is so unique in their approach. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I enjoyed your comments!

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

I have several Monet's in my home. I like impressionist paintings. In fact, with the advent of photography, I see no point in realistic paintings, and still don't care for them (thought the talent to produce realism is true and real) Great article. Thanks. Up and shared.

Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

I loved your article about Impressionism. That is my favorite. There are very few Impressionist works that I don't like and very difficult to name my favorite. Thank you for such in depth information.

ChristinS profile image

ChristinS 4 years ago from Midwest

excellent and interesting hub. This is my favorite form of painting also and I find impressionist paintings are fascinating and I can see something a little different in them every time I look. A print of Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette is on my living room wall :) voted up and across!

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

PDX: Hi! I'm glad you enjoyed this piece. Monet is my favorite of the impressionists and I have several of his reproductions in my home. I love the colors and how they blend. Thanks so much for reading this and for your input. Most appreciated!

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Hi cyndi10: Thanks so much for reading this. I'm glad to know another impressionist fan. I love Monet the best, but they are all good. This is my favorite period in art. The scenes, the colors, the blending the impressions - they all make me gaze at them for quite some time. Thanks for your input - most appreciated!

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM Author

christin, I'm so glad you enjoyed this piece. And, it is nice to know another impressionist fan. I love the painting you have in your living room - a Renoir! I personally love Monet, but all the impressionists were great painters in my opinion. Thanks so much for stopping by to read and view this. It is most appreciated!

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Oh, my goodness, how did I miss this? Such marvelous works of art. I love them all. Thank you, thank you, for injecting art and culture into our lives...there can never be too much. Blessings. Theresa

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

Such a lovely hub! I too love the impressionists--and impressionism carried over into music--Faure, Debussy, Hahn---

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Theresa: Impressionism is my favorite period of art. I have reproductions of Monet, William Merrit Chase, Mary Casset

etc. hanging on my walls. I have always loved an impression of a scene - sort of like a photo - one scene caught in time. I love art, Theresa and in another life I must have been an art major. I hang around art museums a lot, too. I'm about an hour away from the Cleveland Museum of Art here in Ohio and for me it is a treasure trove.

Thanks so much and I'm glad you enjoyed this. I have to get over to your side of HP now!

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 3 years ago from Taos, NM Author

Audrey: Yes, I love the music side also - so glad you brought that up. I love the impressionist period of art the best and always have. So glad yo enjoyed this and thanks so much for stopping by.

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