The Art of Impressionism

How Impressionism Changed the Art World

Impression, Sunrise

A history and overview of the Impressionism movement started by  Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Camille Pissarro.

In 1857 Camille Pissarro ended the period of dreary, lackluster art and ushered in a time of paintings with freshly lit landscapes and bright dashes of color. Joined by such noted artists as Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, they created what was dubbed by critic Louis Leroy Impressionism, inspired by the title of Monet’s work, Impression, Sunrise.


Impressionism is defined by its creators as poetic forms in landscape and life. And this is exactly what they achieved. With chopping strokes and the suppression of defined line with dull, unfocused edges, the Impressionists attempted to mimic the spontaneity of a sketch. They wanted their viewer’s mind to finish the painting.


Though they had different specialties, the Impressionists strove to capture small moments in time. The subjects of Impressionism were passing scenes such as ladies fanning themselves, dancers on stage, picnics, and horse races. Another subject loved by the Impressionists was glimpses of nature such as the wind rustling leaves, the reflection of light on water, or waves crashing against a rock.


Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette

The Impressionist rocked the boat further by moving out of the studio, something that was previously not done. En plein air, or outdoor painting, became these artists favorite way to paint. They believed that by painting outside they would be better able to observe their subjects in natural light.

As you can see by Renoir’s Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette, light is almost a character in the painting. On the happy people are dapples of light filtered through tree branches. It is the first thing you notice, and the last.


One of the interesting techniques that the Impressionists used was varying the angles of their subject. As you can see in Monet’s La Promenade the viewer is looking up at the subject from the ground.

Monet’s La Promenade

Because of bad eyesight, Pissarro was not able to work out in the open air after 1897. He solved this problem by renting rooms throughout Paris and painting what he saw from the windows. This provided him with a God-like view over the city, which he portrayed in paintings such as Boulevard Montmartre, morning, cloudy weather. Like Monet’s La Promenade, the angle was contrary to the straight-on views of other painter of the time.


As you can imagine, the Impressionists stirred the art world into a fevered pitch. Many “traditionalists” hated the new movement, calling it a disgrace. Even so, beauty has triumphed, and from then on the painter’s art has influenced everything from music to poetry, changing the art world forever.