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What is Impressionism?

What is Impressionism?

Is your art collection revolutionary? While we may now consider it an established technique, Impressionism was once the punk music of its day. If you are seeking something truly original in your collection, then you need to know why you should choose Impressionism. 

Throwing off the chains of classicism, Impressionism was everything previous generations of art were not. Below, we give the history of Impressionism art and why you need it in your collection. 

Before Impressionism Art

Romanticism was the largest art movement that pre-dated the Impressionist period. It ran through both art, literature, and music.

Romanticism focused on the glorification of nature, emotion, and the individual. It spurned the age of technology and science in the wake of the industrial revolution.  

Many of these themes, particularly the focus on the individual and nature, would carry through to Impressionism. However, the techniques characteristic of Impressionism were still developing in this period. 

One pioneer of many of the techniques inherent in the movement was Eugene Delacroix. He applied unmixed brushstrokes, to better depict movement and fluidity in an image. He began to distort lines, play with the placement of light, and increase the intensity of the palette. 

One artist who worked on developing the subject of ‘real life,’ a key feature of impressionism, was Edouard Manet. In fact, he would be pivotal in moving romantic painting into the Impressionist era. 

The Birth of Impressionism

The term Impressionism was coined in an article by the journalist Louis Leroy. In the 1874 edition of The Impressionists Exhibition, he described seeing Claude Monet’s piece Impression, Sunrise. Leroy explained how it was both an impression on the canvas and how it left a literal impression on himself. 

This term to bind painters of the style together was more than a definition of the genre. At the time, many of their paintings were disregarded by the art world of the day, as they did away with many classical, scholarly techniques. In essence, Impressionism was the punk rock movement of its time. 

Uniting under the banner of Impressionism, these young artists would form their own anonymous society. They would hold Impressionist exhibitions and celebrate their work. All of this was done without a care for the criticism they were gaining from the art world in general.

Impressionist Techniques

Impressionism can be defined as having three main elements that distinguish it from other types of art. These are its depiction of light, its brush strokes, and its open composition. Secondary to this are its focus on movement or subject matter of the everyday. 

Light plays as large a part as the subject matter in Impressionist paintings. The thick application of paint to emphasize light meant that it stands on a platform as a defining feature of most pieces. Light dancing upon water can be as important as the objects being reflected upon it.

Brushstrokes were generally short, globule-like splodges of paint. Placed on top of one another, these heavy, strokes gave movement, in place of detail and finesse. Hard edges were avoided by working wet paint into more wet paint, blurring lines and boundaries.

Finally, the affinity for open compositions was another defining factor. No longer did the painting focus solely on the subject, with the matter ending at its border. Impressionism ran the pictures and their shapes off the edge of the canvas, to give the illusion that a world existed outside the realms of the frame. 

Post Impressionism

As Impressionism was a reaction to classical styles, Post Impression was a reaction to Impressionism. Although not as defined as the first movement, it railed against its limitations. Many artists such as Cezanne and Gaugin, had once been Impressionists themselves.

Cezanne himself was one of the first members of the movement to distance himself from it. Taking the vivid color palette and techniques of the Impressionists, he bound it to structures and forms. In fact, this study of the form and its reconstruction would be one of the main bases for the Cubist movement.

The most famous of the Impressionists turned Post Impressionist painters was Van Gogh. His early training was influenced by the ideals of the genre.

However, it developed far beyond anything at first conceived. Long, flowing lines and unearthly colors made him one of the most famous contemporary painters to ever have lived.

Adding Impressionism to Your Contemporary Art Collection

Impression represents something more than an artistic movement. It was a time of the revolution, not only in the art world but in that of music and literature.

Since its start, Impressionism has developed into a contemporary movement. Modern painters such as Michael Alford use the ideals of the Impressionists to create masterpieces. They can create figurative forms that often owe much more to realism than original impressionism did.

However, some modern artists follow rules that have not been changed since the dawn of the era. Using these techniques they still produce pieces that manage to remain fresh and contemporary. 

The inclusion of an Impressionist piece in your collection will add a definite statement. As a style that founded contemporary art, it shows that you are a collector who has a sound knowledge of art history and appreciation. 

Sourcing Art

Knowing the history of Impressionism art is only the beginning. Visit an exhibition or showroom to view some of the amazing pieces physically. The thick brush strokes and texture on the canvas can only truly appreciated in person. 

If you are looking to purchase Impressionist art, then Native Visions Galleries should be your first stop. With two gallery locations and regular auctions, we are sure to have the perfect piece for your collection. Contact us to discuss a visit to our showrooms and let us find your perfect work of art. 

If you would like to see some of our impressionism paintings, check out Tony Forrest, Suzie Seerey-Lester or Margaret Gradwell.