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Impressionism (art)

Berthe Morisot, earth colors, impressionist painters, impressionist paintings, Camille Pissarro

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Impressionism (art), a movement in painting that originated in France in the late 19th century. Impressionist painters were considered radical in their time because they broke many of the rules of picture-making set by earlier generations. They found many of their subjects in life around them rather than in history, which was then the accepted source of subject matter. Instead of painting an ideal of beauty that earlier artists had defined, the impressionists tried to depict what they saw at a given moment, capturing a fresh, original vision that was hard for some people to accept as beautiful. They often painted out of doors, rather than in a studio, so that they could observe nature more directly and set down its most fleeting aspects—especially the changing light of the sun.

The style of impressionist painting has several characteristic features. To achieve the appearance of spontaneity, impressionist painters used broken brushstrokes of bright, often unmixed colors. This practice produced loose or densely textured surfaces rather than the carefully blended colors and smooth surfaces favored by most artists of the time. The colors in impressionist paintings have an overall luminosity because the painters avoided blacks and earth colors. The impressionists also simplified their compositions, omitting detail to achieve a striking overall effect.

The artists most often associated with impressionism include Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley.


Thompson, Belinda, B.A., M.A.

Tutor, Department of Fine Art, University of Edinburgh. Author of "The Post-Impressionists" and other books.

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Berthe Morisot, earth colors, impressionist painters, impressionist paintings, Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, impressionism, impressionists, blacks, compositions, France, people, sun, studio, nature, history, painting, doors, century, time, practice, life, movement, artists, subjects

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