Posted by: leahrenee | October 25, 2009

The evolution of Impressionism

The early impressionists broke the rules of traditional academic painting, opting for loose brush strokes in vivid colors and emphasized the overall effects instead of detail.  These impressionists also worked en plein air (outdoors) to better capture the effects of sunlight in their work.  The subject matter was light and often depicted aristocratic pastimes; the boundary between subject matter and landscape relaxed so it appeared the artist had captured a moment in time.  Incidentally, impressionism occurred with the camera’s rise in popularity and availability, a medium that also captured a moment in time.  Ultimately though, there was no competition between the two, as photography seemed to inspire artists to pursue other methods of expression. 

Generally speaking, I would have to say that I find Impressionism appealing.  Looking at the artwork is almost like viewing a faded memory; the work is distant, giving no details but rather an overall impression.  My favorite impressionist is Claude Monet, who is perhaps the most well known impressionist.  I personally find the impressionist paintings that focus on the landscape to hold the most beauty, and so I share one I found appealing.  The strokes of color are pure genius and the use of light is brilliantly displayed, leaving the viewer with a serene feeling.  This piece is entitled Branch of the Seine Near Giverny, which was painted in France by Monet in 1897. 

Branch of the Seine near Giverny
Branch of the Seine near Giverny

Post-Impressionism came later, and had several key differences from Impressionism.  Namely, the post-impressionists had works that were more formalized and structured than their predecessors.  Their works distorted form for its expressive effect, and it emphasized geometric form and color.   One of the most well known post-impressionists is Vincent van Gogh.  This piece is entitled Vase with 12 Sunflowers and it was created in 1888 while the painter lived in Paris with his brother Theo.  Notice that while the form is more defined than those in the impressionist style, the form is still distorted and the colors (while vivid) are not as blended together. 

Vase with 12 Sunflowers
Vase with 12 Sunflowers

Although both forms of impressionism have a distinct beauty, I prefer that of the impressionist painters.  Looking at those pieces seems almost like watching a dream, and I enjoy the serenity in those paintings.  I find that this style is most appealing precisely because it is “out of focus” and allows the viewer to find their own meaning.   





  1. You did a great job introducing Impressionism and the how the style related to the exploding times of the Romantic era. Of course, the popularity of photography arose around the same time but that didn’t stop the Impressionists. I was especially drawn in when you related it to viewing a faded memory, that is exactly what I get out of it. The fact that you brought in Post-impressionism was pretty gutsy but it puts the time into perspective especially with the changing of the Romantic era.

  2. I think you did a good job thoroughly explaining impressionism and post impressionism and how they varies. However, you did not compare impressionism to other eras. I really liked how you talked about impressionism seeming like a faded memory. I never realized how true it is! I too like impressionism as a general rule and love the painting you chose to share with us. You included all the factual information that went with the peices you chose which is awesome so we can compare how the painters grew overtime and how their style may have changed. Maybe you could add a bit about how impressionism differs from other styles of painting? Thanks for sharing!

  3. I agree with both of the previous comments that your description of Impressionism as a faded memory is perfectly fitting. The connection you made to the blended edges and the faded details of a memory helped to expand my views on impressionism that I was finding hard to place into words. As Rachel said, you did forget to compare these styles to others that we have studies. However I enjoy the comparisons you have made between Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. I am not a big fan of the Post-Impressionism style piece you chose with the harsh lines blocks of color, but I understand not all are like this. I definitely prefer Impressionism. Overall, great job with your information and specifics about the paintings you have chosen to discuss. Good Job!

  4. […] love the fact that the Impressionists broke the rules of the Paris art scene at the all-important salon of 1863, and daring to be different, invoked the […]

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