Art History – Impressionism


Claude Monet - La Berge du Petit-Gennevilliers (1875)

Monet – La Berge du Petit-Gennevilliers (1875)

Before Cezanne there was Impressionism. What we now call Modernism started with Impressionism. This art movement began simply when some artists wanted to go outdoors and paint on the spot, the landscape before them, and not work on the big history paintings that the establishment saw as the pinnacle of an artist’s achievement. These outdoor paintings seemed inconsequential by comparison. But what the impressionists were doing as a consequence was painting the modern world as it was happening about them.

Because they painted outdoors, an ever changing subject, a subject that was in a state of flux minute to minute, they had to paint relatively quickly which led to changes in technique. Artists had done quick sketches before, but for the impressionists, these fresh and lively works were the ultimate aim and the finished work. Also, the invention of the paint tube facilitated this approach.

Because they were working outdoors, they saw stronger colors which they tried to emulate. They tried mixing less colors in the paint, using the color straight from the tube, using less under-painting, trying to do it with one brush stroke, cleaning back mistakes rather than over-painting. This was an alternative approach to the art studio realism prevalent at the time.

For me, Impressionism is the most spectacular of art movements, an aberration in the typical progression of art movements. It lauds the beauty of the moment, the moment that has changed as soon as it arrives. The informal looking nature of the composition suggests the beauty that is in any moment, the technique suggests the flux of time. Impressionism created a new convention of form and broadened the range of subject. The meaning is nostalgia, nostalgia for that moment now lived, now lost. It describes a world of human engagement with the environment, a world that we can recognize, a world becoming more democratic and middle class, a world of natural delights, picnics, parties, set within the living environment of a broad social spectrum.


3 Responses to Art History – Impressionism

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