Impressionism and Impressionist Painters
- American Impressionism in Art and American Impressionists Mary Cassatt and William Merritt Chase
My favorite painting by Mary Cassatt. It reminds me of my sister and me at the Jersey shore when we were children. (of course, the bathing suits were different!) American Impressionism was a style of painting related to the European Impressionism...
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.