Skip to content

Impressionism – The Basic Idea

Impressionism was born in France between 1860 and 1870. Later, in the 90s of the 19th century, it spread to large parts of Europe. Impressionism experienced its heyday in the years 1863 – 1883. Years earlier it had already been influenced by the main representatives Claude Monet, Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas. Impressionism had a very strong influence on the art styles that followed it. Even during the Expressionist period, many artists remained faithful to Impressionism throughout their lives.

Contours are interpretations

The term impressionism comes from the French and means “impression”. The revolutionary thing about Impressionism is that artists began to observe their perception.

The first realization was that the contours of objects were “made” by consciousness. That the eye sees mainly colors and forms; strictly speaking, only colors. Contours are interpretations and the Impressionists wanted to return to “pure perception”.

The light and its effect had done it to the painters of Impressionism. With their new way of painting, consisting of dots and small strokes, they tried to reproduce the natural light in their paintings. The Impressionists mainly worked outdoors or in a studio with changing lighting. Some Impressionists painted the same motif at different times of the day or season to reflect the difference in changing lighting. To achieve this, the Impressionists developed new techniques for working with color. The colors became lighter and the artists began to mix the color directly on the canvas. This technique enabled them to achieve softer contours in their paintings.

They realized that perception changed rapidly from moment to moment and that it was impossible to capture the impression of a moment. This explains the fast painting style used to capture these impressions before the next impression follows. The impressions were about pure observation without interpretation or constructs.

Typical motifs of Impressionism were landscape scenes and boulevard scenes with elegantly dressed ladies, depictions of dancers and women at the toilet.