Impressionism is a 19th century artistic movement that swept much of the painting and sculpture styles of the period. It was not just a passing fad but has defined an entirely modern way of expressing one’s artistry that eventually rubbed of in other art forms like literature and photography.
The term 'Impressionist' was first used as an insult in response to an exhibition of new paintings in Paris in 1874. A diverse group of painters, rejected by the art establishment, defiantly set up their own exhibition. They included Monet, Renoir, Pissarro and Degas
Composition and Content
To a large extent, impressionist styles can be viewed more as a reaction to the emerging visual realism offered by the emerging photographic works that devalued the need for realistic paintings.
Impressionism is a depiction of an artist’s impression. It does not aim to be accurate in detail which one finds in the realist and neo-realist style. But the impression often elicits a stronger emotional appeal which is variously triggered in the beholder. Many impressionist paintings have a soft nebulous rendering of its subject, almost dream-like. Rules about perspective, clean definite lines and interplay of light and shadows no longer apply. It is a spontaneous expression, often discarding the basic ability to draw correctly and becomes more an interplay of colours
Themes of Impressionism
- The Radical Nature of Impressionism
Although it may seem different to imagine now, Impressionism – a departure from the traditional paintings of its day – was considered radical and even offensive at first site by some people.
Academic paintings tended to glorify human actions by dramatizing figures in historical, religions or mythical theme. In Caillebotte’s painting, a bridge and some anonymous strollers form the focus of the work. There is no obvious moral lesson or story being told in this image.
Nature was included in traditional paintings, but largely as a dramatic background for allegorical themes. Sisley considered nature to be worthy subject matter in its own right.