What is Impressionism?

Gilles Farina
Publié le 11 February 2023
What is Impressionism?

Today, let's look back at an artistic movement that revolutionised the way we paint: Impressionism. Although Impressionist works are now universally acclaimed, they have long been the subject of much criticism. Museum TV explains what Impressionism is.

A new movement

A story about a tube of paint

Before giving a technical definition of Impressionism, it is important to understand how this movement came to be. Indeed, in the middle of the 19th century, the paint tube appeared. This new method of conservation allowed artists to leave their studios and paint outdoors. Painters left their homes to paint landscapes and everyday situations.

Renoir : Luncheon of the Boating Party - 1881
Renoir : Luncheon of the Boating Party - 1881

It was in depicting modern life that Impressionism made its debut, freeing itself from the codes of the time.

A technical renewal

It was not so much the appearance of a tube of paint that set the world on fire, but rather a certain emancipation from academic art. Indeed, by painting reality, the Impressionists abandoned the line on the canvas to paint what is instantaneous. The colours are also much more vivid to arouse a deeper feeling in the viewer. In addition, the play of colours allows for the implementation of one of the Impressionists' favourite subjects: light.

Monet : Liacs in the sun - 1872
Monet : Liacs in the sun - 1872

Indeed, these artists attach great importance to light and movement. Using primary colours, they succeed in representing the "poetry of shadows". The painter therefore paints what he sees!

Finally, this new method of the snapshot leads artists to give relief to their paintings. Indeed, the lines are much thicker thanks to the juxtaposition of colours giving relief to the paintings.

As you can see, impressionism is about light and its vibrations.

The irony of the name

But where does the name come from? As we have said, the Impressionists freed themselves from the codes of the time and therefore from other artists. The latter did not wish to be affiliated with this new genre. All their works were therefore systematically refused by conventional exhibitions. They therefore decided to hold their own exhibition.

A critic visited it and came across Monet's painting Impression, Sunrise. As you can imagine, he renamed the exhibition to : The Impressionist Exhibition. For him, these captures of everyday life are sketches, unfinished paintings.

Monet : Liacs in the sun - 1872
Monet : Liacs in the sun - 1872

Snapshots that the greatest painters in our history would follow to the letter: Renoir, Monet, Manet and Pissarro.

History has proven them right, impressionism revolutionised the way of painting and opened the door to many artistic trends.

Pissarro : White Frost  - 1873
Pissarro : White Frost - 1873

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