The style of Impressionism, which was in essence born in 1874 in France, ushered in a new era of visual arts that changed the way many viewed art and evaluated it. In comparison to the Romantic and Realist painters that preceded them, painters of the Impressionist style took a drastic approach at depicting real subjects with real lighting and effects in a different matter than seen before. It’s this fact alone that I think intrigues me the most about this particular art style.
Critics of the style believed at first that these painters looked unfinished and attributed their worth to little more than a sketch or impression, giving the style its name. (Samu Impressionism). However, after time passed, more people began to look at Impressionistic paintings in a different light. Not only did people look at the subjects in the paintings, typically upper class goings on and other pleasant moments, but at the work and technique an individual painter used to create their work. Detail was not a necessary facet of Impressionism, but the fact that many different painters found different levels of detail shows how versatile and awe-inspiring many of these works are.
In comparison to previous art styles, which I covered in previous posts, I think of the styles together as a camera changing focus. As you focus the camera forward toward something, you see a more detailed image and can see much farther. When we finally focus the image perfectly, we arrive at what most would consider the Romantic/Realist styles. Focus the camera just a little more and we set the focal point past the image, which may not look blurry and not as detailed, but we technically are looking much deeper. This is Impressionism to me.
Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, being one of the very first paintings in this style, also help to bring about a good sense of what the art style meant. Monet created the painting in 1873, exhibiting it in Paris the next year, where it caused much a stir (Douma Claude Monet). At first glance, the painting may appear rather bland and blurry. However, upon closer inspection, we see beyond much more than a simple boat in the water and sun. The strokes used by Monet paint a brilliant picture that actually seems much more photorealistic than you might think.
Another work provides a different technique and use of color; John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, created in England in 1885 (Wallace John Singer). It’s undeniably much more aesthetically more detailed, but the method in which he created the work provides much more insight into the mind of an Impressionist painter. For several months, he would continually paint at the same time in the garden where he would have two girls holding Chinese lanterns, first sketching the motif and then painting over it, until he was finally satisfied with the result. He ultimately produced one of his most celebrated works, seen above.
These are only two of a trove of Impressionist works that show the broad range of techniques and individuals who spurred the Impressionism movement. It, in the end, laid the groundwork for the modern art we see today, where not only does the work itself become a much discussed topic, but the matter of which it was conceived.
Douma, Michael, curator. Claude Monet’s Impression Sunrise. Color Vision & Art. 2006. WebExhibits. Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement, Washington, DC. 28 March 2011.
Samu, Margaret. Impressionism: Art and Modernity. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1 Oct 2004. Web. 28 March 2011.
Wallace, Natasha. John Singer Sargent’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose. JSSGallery.org. 2010. Web. 29 March 2011.