Impressionism was a revolutionary movement in painting, centered in France, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Impressionist artists were drawn together by a desire to bring a new kind of realism to painting, an approach to both technique and subject matter that broke dramatically with the entrenched style of the French Academy.
Impressionist painters shared an acute interest in representing cosmopolitan life, as well as the middle-class leisure pleasures of garden and country, through sophisticated use of scientific color theory and keen attention to the play of light.
The often worked “en plein air,” or outdoors (a relatively new way of working at that time enabled by the recent availability of paint in tubes), to capture the fleeting effects of sunlight and atmosphere in quick brushstrokes of bold, unmixed color applied directly to the canvas.
The employed asymmetrical compositions, the bold graphic organization of Japanese woodblock prints, and a photographically inspired use of framing to convey a vibrant and light-infused sense of the modern life they shared in the late 19th century.
Most well-known among the painters associated with the Impressionist style are Claude Monet (1840-1926), Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), and Mary Cassatt (1844-1926). Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) also painted in the Impressionist style during the 1870s. Many of the were deeply influenced by the work of Edouard Manet (1832-1883), whom they thought of as the first great modern painter.
The Impressionist art movement was active from the early 1870s into the '90s. Along with the artists directly associated with the Impressionist movement's exhibitions in Paris, Impressionist painting inspired the work of many contemporary painters such as Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Georges Seurat (1859-1891), and Henri Matisse (1869-1954).
Although Impressionism was not widely appreciated in its heyday, it has since become one of the most popular styles of painting and is thought of as a foundation stone of modern painting in the 20th century.
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