The impressionist movement was born when a small group of artists, frustrated by their exclusion from the state-sponsored exhibitions of contemporary art, arranged to show their work together privately.
The roster of artists who exhibited at the eight impressionist exhibitions that followed between 1874 and 1886 was changing and diverse, but a core group today defines impressionism for modern audiences: Frédéric Bazille, Gustave Caillebotte, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and Alfred Sisley. They were drawn together not only by their shared interest in a new way of exhibiting their art but also by their common exploration of a new subject matter: modern life as it was lived in and around Paris. The impressionists explored new social types, new forms of entertainment and leisure, and new kinds of urban and suburban spaces during the 1870s and 1880s.
Landscape was also an important genre for the impressionists, and one in which their new approach to painting can best be observed. The impressionists championed plein-air painting, working outdoors and directly before their subject. The spontaneity of this approach was intended to preserve the freshness and immediacy of perception itself, rather than the imitation of visual experience that had been the traditional goal of painters. Visible brushwork in pure, unmixed colors creates shimmering effects, capturing the fleeting properties of light and shadow.
DMA label copy, 2010.
- The term "impressionist" originated when critic Louis Leroy negatively reviewed the 1874 exhibition which included works by Camille Pissarro, Edgar Degas, and Claude Monet, among others. Leroy used the term to deride Claude Monet's painting Impression, Sunrise as sketchy or unfinished.
Khan Academy, Smarthistory
Check out Khan Academy's "A beginner's guide to Impressionism."
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Explore Impressionism with the Met.
Americans in Paris, 1860-1900
Read H. Barbara Weinberg's essay about this group of expatriate artists on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.
Art Access: Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art
Explore this selection of lessons, activities, and images from the Art Institute of Chicago.
Guide to Impressionism
Check out the history and techniques of Impressionism through the National Gallery of Art, London.
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
View Claude Monet's 1873_ Impression, Sunrise (Impression, Soleil levant)_.