Impressionism

Article excerpt

THINGS TO LEARN

* Impressionism is a style of painting in which artists paint the ordinary scenes that lie in front of them. The original Impressionists were interested in everyday sights found on nearby streets, in the quiet countryside or inside cafes and theaters. They usually completed a painting on a single occasion, unlike most artists of the time who first made sketches and then went back to their studios to complete a picture.

* While most artists of the time painted objects very carefully, Impressionist painters recognized that daylight caused the appearance of images to continually change. As a result, they tried to capture on canvas what was happening in a fleeting moment of time. To do this, they focused attention on the effects created by light as it was reflected from objects, rather than on the solidness of the shapes themselves. Buildings, trees, bridges and people, therefore, usually had indistinct outlines.

* Because Impressionist painters had to work quickly, oil paint was usually put on the canvas in small dabs or short strokes, often with little color mixing. These bright, frequently unmixed colors appeared to blend together in the finished painting to make people think the paint had really been mixed in advance.

* Many people believe that Impressionism was the most important idea to happen to art since the Italian Renaissance, 500 years before. At that time, Classical art had been rediscovered after being forgotten for 1,000 years. But Impressionism did not just happen. The leaders of this new movement developed their ideas by studying the pictures of other artists, most importantly two Englishmen, John Constable and J.M.W. Turner.

Further ideas came from a group of landscape artists who had worked in the village of Barbizon, near Paris, France, and also Edouard Manet, who believed that art should portray what an artist actually saw.

* The names of the original French Impressionists are Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre Renoir, Alfred Sisley and Edgar Degas. Pissarro was their leading thinker. However, each artist painted quite differently while working toward similar goals.

* Later, three other artists took the ideas of Impressionism and changed them to create other art movements. Paintings by Paul Cezanne are called "Post-Impressionism." Those by Paul Gauguin are examples of "Symbolism." And a group of artists, under the leadership of Georges Seurat, used a system of painting called "Pointillism" (or "Neo-Impressionism").

* Probably the best-known American Impressionist is Mary Cassatt, who worked in France with the original French artists. Many American artists adopted Impressionism, however, and in 1898, Childe Hassam and nine other New York Impressionists joined together and called themselves "The Ten. …