What is Impressionism?
Impressionism was a painting movement that began in France in the 1860’s. Its unique style was defined by an artistic concern for and delight in representing visual impressions, with the focus on the changing effects that light has on color. The idea was to catch the spirit of the subject, as in the above pastel painting by Mary Cassatt, “At the Theatre.”
Impressionist techniques included painting brush strokes that were small and thin, though visible, and heavy with paint that was applied wet into wet. The subject matter was ordinary. Impressionist paintings often portrayed the passing of time and included movement and atypical visual angles.
Another interesting technique used by the Impressionists was that they avoided using black paint and instead mixed blacks with complimentary colors. Although impressionist painters were ostracized at the time, their emphasis on the play of natural light and vibrant colors has made Impressionism very popular ever since. Some paintings from that period have sold for tens of millions of dollars – artists such as Monet, Picasso, Cezanne, van Gogh and others.
In present time, “impressionism” is also a term used to describe an artistic (or literary) style that strives to portray a feeling or an experience – instead of trying to accomplish a perfect representation.