The impressionist movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries was primarily founded by numerous French artists.  It has come to have widespread influence on all of Western art including American.

     Impressionist paintings have several characteristics:

  •   Visible brush strokes
  •   Open composition
  •   Emphasis on light and its change
  •   Unusual visual angles
  •   Depiction of movement
  •   Mundane subject matter
  •   No use of black, gray tones are achieved by mixing complementary colors
  •   Paint wet on wet
  •   Minimum color mixing, colors are applied side-by side so eye can do the mixing
  •   No transparency, no use of glazes   

     Implied in these characteristics is the singular factor that has made impressionism a major influence, arguably a turning point, in Western art.  That is, impressionism incorporates the characteristics of the viewer.  In a primitive but more or less accurate way, impressionist painters recognized the fundamentals of human visual perception and took them into consideration when composing their paintings.  For example, many impressionist paintings were created with dots of paint rather than linear brush strokes.  That does two things for the viewer:

     1.) Impressionist paintings affect a compatibility with the punctate nature of human vision and the ability of the brain to assemble such input into a smooth non-punctate perception.  The eye's photosensitive surface, the retina, is composed of millions of discrete receptors (called rods and cones) each of which responds to a discrete dot of a visual field, yet viewers do not see the field as a series of points or dots but as a whole.  As Gestalt psychologists point (pun intended) out, the sum is more than the total of its parts.

     2.)  By using different colored paint dots, impressionist paintings allow the viewer's perceptual capacity to effect the blending of colors.  For example, instead of mixing red, yellow and white pigments to create flesh color on the palette, the impressionist will paint red, yellow and white dots on the canvas where he/she wants a perception of flesh color and allow the viewer's eye to do the blending.

     Cezanne took the concept further by involving the eye's capacity for depth perception, causing the viewer to perceive three-dimensional space on the two dimensional canvas surface.  The concept of perspective was worked out by the Old Masters but he went further.  Cezanne used color and shape as well as perspective to convey perception of depth.  The approach is often referred to as post-impressionism.

     It is not difficult to see those concepts in "post-post-impressionist" art ranging from Picasso's cubism to Hopper's ashcan school.  Indeed, the influence is evident in the work of virtually every modern artist.

     The number of influential impressionist artists is far too big for doing them justice in this overview.  A few examples will have to suffice.  The reader is encouraged to become familiar with the many who are not mentioned in the following examples.



Edgar Degas (1834-1917),
Woman in the Bath
, 1885, 32" X 39", oil on canvas.

Claude Monet (1840 -1926), Impression, soleil levant, 1873 19" X 23", oil on canvas.

Armand Guillaumin, (1841-1927),
Sunset at Ivry.
1873, 26" X 32", oil on canvas.
Paul Cezanne (1839-1906),
Mont Sainte-Victoire.
 1900, 26" X 32", oil on canvas.
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903),
The Orchard
.  1881, 18" X 22", oil on linen.
Gustave Caillebotte, (1848-1894),
Paris Street, Rainy Day. 1877, 84" X 109", oil on canvas.

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1902),
The Medical Inspection
(at the Rue de Moulins brothel).
1894, 23" X 32", oil on cardboard.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919),
On the Terrace
. 1881, 32" X 29",oil on canvas.

Berthe Morisot (1841-1895),  The Cradle, 18" X 22", oil on canvas

Homepage | Contact Huglou | Copyright Statement | Mobile Website

A Huglou Publication


Huglou | Dr. Hugh Brown of Mount Dora, Florida, USA
© 2009-2017