Brief History of French Impressionist Painting

Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), 1872, oil on canvas, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris. This painting became the source of the movement's name, after Louis Leroy's article The Exhibition of the Impressionists satirically implied that the painting was at most, a sketch.

Impressionist art is a style in which the artist catches the image of an object as someone would see it if they just caught sight of it. They paint the pictures with a lot of colors and most of their pictures are rustic scenes. Their pictures are very colorful and vigorous.

Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot, Armand Guillaumin, and Frederic Bazille were a gathering of French artists who tangled the feathers of the established artists of the state-sponsored Academie des Beau-Arts.

They shared a set of approaches to painting where they set out to give the hypothesis of a scene or object. They used unmixed primary colors and small strokes to mimic reflected light. They mixed their colors on the canvas often using parallel colors which conveyed a sparkling light.

Instead of careful naturalist painting, they used blurred edges to give the painting an unpolished appearance, showed brushstrokes to give texture, and did not use greys or blacks as they were specialists in light.

They used palette knives, paint employed straight from the tubes or big thick bristled brushes, all of which went against the rules of the Louvre Grand Salon.

The critics were appalled by the artist’s lack of respect for the rules and they were banned from exhibiting at “The Salon”, a thing which every artist till then had sought to. To be accepted by The Salon was the aim of artists as it meant they could set great prices for their paintings. Unfortunately, this backfired on the Salon as the artists were undisturbed by this and held their own exhibitions. This occurred in the latter half of the 19th century beginning about 1867 and finishing about 1886.

It started when Claude Monet had a painting called “Impression, Sunrise” which he painted in his own baggy style. This so angered one of the critics that he wrote calling the style Impressionism. This term was used in a sarcastic manner. Because of the poor reviews by the critics, the French Impressionist painting did not become widespread for some time.

Up until The Impressionists, affirmed art themes for art were religious, historical, or mythological. French Impressionist paintings included haystacks and rocks, picnics and parties, regattas, and theatre. It relished in the simplicity of everyday objects and everyday events.

It is no wonder the movement was regarded as a rebellion.

The movement later included many more artists, the most notable being Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne, and Edouard Manet. The public generally associates the work of Vincent Van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Gauguin with French Impressionist Painting but they were slightly younger and are technically included with Post Impressionist Painting. It spread to other European countries in the 1880s. These artists worked together and influenced each other although each had his or her own distinctive style. The new zinc tubes and lightweight portable easels enabled these artists to paint outdoors, “en Plein air”, as this is known. This authorized them to capture the light. Prior to this time, artists made sketches and returned to the studio to execute their painting.

The appeal of French Impressionist Painting lies in its spontaneity, the romance of everyday subjects, and its carefree painting style which enables you to share an informal moment with the master and the subject.

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