Impressionism is a term used regularly in art today, as it is one of the more influential art movements that has stood the test of time. They created a style that has managed to challenge future artists to create bolder work then their own, while still timeless depicting the modern world through their own revolutionary work.
Impressionism first got it’s start when a number of painters began using natural ways to light the subjects of their paintings, which gave a freshness and naturalism to the very best paintings of the movement. Artists when the movement first started would usually band together and show their paintings in random studios, as they were refused by official galleries who never recognized their work. The first recorded exhibition, in 1874, featured the likes of Claude Monet’s Impression: Sunrise and was slammed by critics, who thought these paintings looked unfinished. This was obviously due to the fact that the movement had not yet hit the mainstream and the critics who saw the opening had little to no sense of where art was going next.
An impressionist paints a landscape or outdoor setting in a very short amount of time and as the light changes they will stop and return the following day at the same time, so that they can have longer in that particular setting. This method allowed the paintings to actually be more realistic than any other paintings in history, thanks not only to the aforementioned technique but also the fact that painting supplies were much easier to transport than they ever had been in the past. While other painters had tried to paint landscapes, the Impressionists were the first ones to pull it off with regularity and with such photorealistic results. That said, there were a number of impressionist painters who did not have the same intention with their work, meaning that while they had incredibly similar styles, they had completely different artistic aims.
For example, Edgar Degas and Georges Seurat were painters who had been trained in actual schools, whereas Pierre Auguste Renoir tried to replicate his travels in Italy primarily and reacted to fellow impressionist contemporary Monet, calling his work formlessness. Paul Cezanne said there was a lack of intellect to most of his fellow impressionist painters, as well as the order of color and used specific long directional brushstrokes in all of his work. The most notable impressionist was, of course, Vincent Van Gogh who mixed a number of different styles together, which have been tagged with titles like Realist, Expressionist and Symbolist.
IMPRESSIONISM THEN AND NOW
The greatest and perhaps saddest irony is that the impressionist painters were generally not appreciated while they were alive, having a difficult time even surviving as artists, much less becoming wealthy. Today, impressionist paintings are generally considered to be some of the most valuable in the world, with paintings regularly priced and sold at tens of millions of dollars. Van Gogh, who is considered the master of the Impressionists and was perhaps the poorest and most troubled, has an entire museum dedicated to him and his work in Amsterdam today. Clearly the impressionists were before their time.
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