Impressionism: The Artistic Movement that Transformed the Art World

Impressionism is one of the most recognizable artistic movements in history. Its bright colors, loose brushstrokes, and focus on capturing the ephemeral qualities of light and nature, evokes a sense of joy and energy that still resonates with art enthusiasts today. In this blog post, we will explore what Impressionism is, what sets it apart from Post-Impressionism, and why it continues to captivate the imaginations of art lovers around the world.

How can you describe Impressionism?

Impressionism emerged in France in the late 19th century as a reaction to the strict academic traditions of the time. Artists like Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Edgar Degas sought to capture the fleeting effects of light and color in their paintings, often working en plein air, or outside, to capture the changing colors and moods of the natural world.

One of the defining characteristics of Impressionism is its use of quick, loose brushstrokes, which allow the viewer to see the work of the artist as he applies paint to canvas. This gives the paintings a sense of immediacy and liveliness that is absent in more polished academic works. Impressionists also employed a bright and vibrant color palette, which further emphasized the fleeting nature of light and color.

Another hallmark of Impressionism is its focus on capturing the atmosphere and mood of a scene rather than depicting a specific narrative or story. This approach is most evident in Monet’s series of paintings of water lilies, which he completed over many years. The paintings all share a similar subject matter, but each one captures a slightly different aspect of the changing light and mood of the water garden.

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Impressionism vs. Post-Impressionism

After the height of the Impressionist movement in the 1870s and 1880s, many artists began to experiment with new forms of artistic expression that built on the foundations laid by the Impressionists. This movement, known as Post-Impressionism, includes artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Georges Seurat.

While Post-Impressionist artists still shared some of the same interests as their Impressionist predecessors – such as a fascination with light and color – they also sought to incorporate their own unique perspectives and ideas into their work. For example, van Gogh often used heavy, bold brushstrokes and vivid, exaggerated colors to express his emotional response to a scene. Cézanne, on the other hand, sought to break down the physical world into more basic shapes and forms, creating a sense of depth and perspective through careful manipulation of color and line.

In short, Post-Impressionism marks a moment when artists began to look beyond the limitations of Impressionism and explore new forms of artistic expression and experimentation.

Is Van Gogh an Impressionist?

While Vincent van Gogh is often associated with the Impressionist movement due to his use of bold colors and interest in capturing the natural world, he is not considered to be a true Impressionist. Van Gogh’s own style and approach to painting was too individualistic and too experimental to fit neatly into any particular artistic movement.

Instead, van Gogh is often identified as a Post-Impressionist artist, thanks to his interest in exploring new forms of artistic expression and his use of color and form to convey his emotional response to a scene. Van Gogh’s paintings are often characterized by their bright colors, bold brushstrokes, and dynamic compositions, making them some of the most recognizable and beloved works of art in history.

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Why is it called Impressionism art?

The name Impressionism was originally intended as a pejorative term, coined by Louis Leroy, a French art critic, in response to an exhibition of paintings by Monet, Renoir, and others in 1874. Leroy was unimpressed by the unconventional style of the paintings, which he saw as unfinished and lacking in detail. He famously wrote that the works looked like “impressions,” rather than finished works of art.

Despite the initial negative connotations of the term, the artists themselves embraced it, recognizing the radical nature of their artistic vision and the ways in which they were challenging the established norms of art at the time.

In the years that followed the 1874 exhibition, Impressionism would become one of the most influential and transformative movements in the history of art, inspiring countless artists and reshaping the way we think about the natural world and the power of color and light.

What are the 3 primary characteristics of Impressionism?

While Impressionism is a complex and multifaceted art movement, there are three primary characteristics that set it apart from other forms of art:

Focus on Light and Color

One of the most defining characteristics of Impressionism is its focus on light and color. Impressionist artists sought to capture the changing effects of light on the natural world, employing a bright and vibrant color palette to evoke the mood and atmosphere of a scene. This focus on light and color was a marked departure from the more academic traditions of the time, which placed a greater emphasis on realism and detail.

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Loose Brushwork

Impressionist paintings are characterized by loose, quick brushstrokes that convey a sense of motion and energy. Unlike the more polished and refined works of academic art, Impressionist paintings often look as though they were painted in a single sitting, capturing the fleeting nature of a scene or mood.

Emphasis on Atmosphere and Mood

Impressionist artists were less concerned with depicting a specific narrative or story in their paintings than with capturing the overall atmosphere and mood of a scene. This allowed them to create works of art that were both evocative and open to interpretation, inviting the viewer to experience the painting on their own terms.


Impressionism continues to be one of the most beloved and recognizable artistic movements in history, thanks to its bold use of color, loose brushwork, and focus on capturing the ephemeral qualities of light and nature. While the movement itself was relatively short-lived, lasting only a few decades, its influence can still be seen today in the works of countless artists, from Pablo Picasso to David Hockney. Whether you’re a lifelong art enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of painting, Impressionism is sure to leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul.