Art Theory

The History of Impressionism – Characteristics of Impressionism

This article will discuss the history of impressionism, its subjects, technique, and impressionism characteristics that make it unique in painting

Many artists have sought to capture the ‘impression‘ of everyday life throughout the last century, and this type of art certainly fits this bill. This article will discuss the history of impressionism, its subjects, technique, and reception. Its characteristics make it unique in painting. Read on to discover what sets it apart from other art movements. Here are a few of the essential characteristics of Impressionism:

history of impressionism impressionism characteristics

Impressionism’s origins

Édouard Manet was a pioneer in the development of the Impressionist movement. A prominent art member of the art movement, he was known for capturing women in private moments. In “Masked Ball at the Opera“, Manet dramatically cropped the frame to show men in black formal clothing and women in masked dresses dancing. Although the painting appears to be flat, the artist uses shadows to suggest activity taking place off-frame.

A new pace and rhythm characterized the 19th-century European culture that spawned Impressionism. The development of photography revealed new ways to frame the world and a growing sense of self-consciousness. Additionally, collapsible metal paint tubes and lighter equipment made painting outdoors more accessible to artists. Degas, meanwhile, was a figure painter who worked from a model. In addition to being a pioneer in Impressionism, he was a pioneer in incorporating modern art and technology.

Many of the leading Impressionists changed their style once they arrived in the United States. Whistler incorporated lessons learned from Japanese Impressionism, and Japanese art prints, while Homer preferred strong outlines. In 1886, Seurat declared the original movement out-of-date, and with the help of Paul Signac, he created the style known as Neo-Impressionism. This movement would ultimately influence modern art and has a lasting legacy.

Impressionism’s subjects

The first Impressionists were French painters who painted en plein air, or on the spot, in order to capture momentary light and color. They preferred to paint quickly while the subject was in front of them and used pure colors on the canvas. They also used small strokes of vibrant paint to create a sense of unity in their compositions. By the end of the nineteenth century, many of them had achieved international recognition for their works.

Impressionist artists

Impressionist art was initially named after the painter Claude Monet, who critics ridiculed for using wallpaper-like colors. Its leaders, such as Monet, were interested in the passage of time in the portrayal of light. Ultimately, the Impressionist movement’s artists became famous for their paintings of landscapes and still life subjects. The Rouen Cathedral series, for example, shows the transformation of the subject due to its surroundings.

The Impressionist artists in this period also sought a way to represent everyday life. They also sought to depict the human figure. Several Impressionists artists were female. American painter Mary Cassatt and French artist Berthe Morisot were examples of female Impressionists. However, Degas refused to label himself an Impressionist, choosing to use Realist and Independent terms. In 1864, Degas turned to the more realistic side of the world, studying academic subjects as well as ballet dancers.

The History of Impressionism – Characteristics of Impressionism 01 - LittleArt Club Digital Art

Impressionism’s technique

The history of impressionism and its technique can be traced back to the French Revolution, when the art world was transformed into a new, more modern environment. Paintings by the Impressionists, influenced by nature, focused on the play of light and reflection. They often used a white background or unprimed canvas. In addition to painting outdoors, the Impressionists also painted interiors, as well.

The Impressionist art movement broke with the tradition of representational art. Impressionist works presented subjects through the artist’s sensibility, illuminating the ineffable qualities. This aesthetic awareness was later carried on to literature and music. Impressionist art is a highly prized genre of art, and works by French artists can be seen in the world’s greatest museums. But how did Impressionism develop into a modern movement?

Impressionism changed painting forever

The technique of pointillism evolved from Impressionism. In pointillism, artists placed many small dots of color on the canvas. This technique allows the painting to have greater vibrancy when viewed from a distance. Unlike traditional paintings, the dots don’t merge into one another; instead, they create a shimmering effect. One of the most famous exponents of pointillism was Georges Seurat, who first used the term in his painting La Grand Jette.

The Impressionists exhibited their paintings eight times between 1874 and 1886 but achieved relatively few financial rewards. The popularity of impressionist paintings increased after several exhibitions. Impressionist paintings generally depict modern life and are created outside of the studio. The term “en plein air” means painting outdoors, also known as ‘painting on the motif’ or ‘painting on the ground’. Its influence also spread far beyond Europe. The core British impressionists were Walter Richard Sickert and Wilson Steer.


A History of Impressionism and its Reception offers a multidisciplinary approach to the history of this art movement. This collection of essays examines impressionist painting from its syntax, semantics, and pragmatics, revealing its international promiscuity, syncretism, and malleability. It shuns prescriptive definitions and refuses to define “Impressionism” in its standard form.

Yukiko Kato argues that the reception of impressionism in Japan was shaped by the experience of forced modernization in the country. The artists’ style was seen as an external threat to Japanese culture and a marker of social distinction in Japanese art. In response, French critics emphasized the Frenchness of impressionist paintings, using images of war and invasion as metaphors. This analysis reveals the influence of national culture, as well as stereotypes.

American Impressionist painters

A number of American Impressionist painters influenced impressionist style development, including Georges Seurat, Gustav Klimt, and Paul Gauguin. The movement was also influential in literature. The writers George Eliot, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Henry James have adapted impressionist themes. In Australia, artists such as Peter Blake and Arthur Streeton adapted this style to their own context, and the history of Impressionism and its reception can be derived from the works of these four prominent artists.

While the first impressionists followed academic painting rules and used loosely brushed colors, many of these artists also reinterpreted scenes of contemporary life. They painted outdoors, often capturing the momentary effects of sunlight and wind. They also took risks by incorporating elements of nature, such as the flowers growing in a meadow. The resulting paintings have been widely admired and interpreted. However, Burton’s study illustrates the complex global connections that characterize the emergence of impressionism and its reception.

The History of Impressionism, painting – Characteristics of Impressionism painting - LittleArt Club Digital Art


The group, which included the painters Monet, Signac, and Van Gogh, was characterized by discord among its members. The Impressionists’ defections began when some artists, including Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, opted out of the group. Camille Pissarro was the only group member to participate in all eight group exhibitions. Ultimately, the group’s defections led to the creation of a new movement known as avant-garde art.

The Impressionists defied the system by changing the concept of art to represent what the eye could see. They also altered standards of authenticity, redefining what a painting should look like. While they were criticized for attempting to change the Beaux-Arts system, they did so by deliberately overplaying the subversiveness of their movement. These paintings influenced the next movement in modern art, namely the neo-impressionism movement.

Impressionism’s influence

The History of Impressionism art movement and its characteristics focuses on the movement’s artistic practices. These early artists broke from the strict rules of academic painting, using freely brushed colors and the impressionist technique to create realistic scenes of everyday life. They often painted outdoors, capturing the momentary effects of sunlight. The early Impressionists became known as the Societe Anonyme des Peintres, Sculpteurs, and Graveurs (SAPG).

One of the essential characteristics of Impressionism art is its use of relative color instead of local color. Local color refers to the color of an object in neutral white light, or the colors we usually associate with objects. The colors used in Impressionist paintings are much brighter than in previous eras because of the use of synthetic pigments. This style favored vibrant colors and emphasized contrast. But its characteristics aren’t limited to this.

While the Impressionist movement originated in Europe, it was influenced by the New World. Its founder, Camille Pissarro, was a West Indian with French, Jewish, and Portuguese ancestry. These influences contributed significantly to the style of painting that grew out of this culture. The New World was also home to cosmopolitan artists, including the American Impressionist painters John Singer Sargent, Thomas Moran, and Paul Cezanne.

Thanks for reading The History of Impressionism – Characteristics of Impressionism – Impressionist Art Movement

Tag: #impressionist artists; #claude monet painting; #pierre auguste renoir; #edgar degas; #women artists; #japanese art; #visual arts; #19th century; #paint colours; #black paint; #natural light; #impression sunrise; #industrial revolution; #water lilies; #impressionist art; #art history;

6 replies on “The History of Impressionism – Characteristics of Impressionism”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *