The Impressionist Painters:  The Foundation for 20th Century Art


            I am not so sure that the Impressionist painters intended to start something as radical as they started—at first.  It is certain that within a rather short time, some of the painters who came to be called “Impressionists” gathered together and attempted to press their ideas on the artistic public. 

            Nor were they received well, at first!  Their ideas were considered too new and too radical.  They were analysts—of light, of color, of form.  Yet they painted with a certain joy which seems to have escaped some of the later analysts.

            They took delight in the way sunlight played upon a landscape.  They determined that it would be more interesting to mix paints on the canvas than on the palatte—in that way, they were a little bit like the iconographers of old, whose glowing colors were built up from dark to light, and were layered on to the canvas. 

            The subjects of the Impressionists ranged from humans and their activities, to outdoor scenes, with a heavy emphasis upon the latter.  In fact, many of the human subjects were portrayed out of doors.  This has always been so, to some extent, but it was, to the Impressionists, another delightful way of studying light—painting out of doors.

            Why were they called “Impressionists?”  Perhaps it was because they sought to give the “impression,” or feeling, of their subjects, rather than a precise rendering of the subject.  One of them used the word, “Impressions of…” in a painting, and that’s all it took to get his work labeled as a “movement.” Like the famous musician, Claude Debussy, who was credited with musical “impressionism,” that artist was not pleased to be labeled so quickly.

            Within the Impressionist art folder are works by the following artists:  Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Edouart Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Cezanne.  If you can’t remember the difference between Manet and Monet, remember this: Manet came first.  He was a little older and considered a bit more of a “founder” of Impressionism than Monet.  His name starts with the first letter of the alphabet, and that is a good way of remembering that he came before Monet.

            Attached are some of their stories.  Study their paintings.  Make a slide show of their works and live with them for awhile (you can use them, either one at a time, or as a slide show) as a screen saver.  You will enjoy having these great works of art so close to hand.  When they go by, try to remember who painted them (even if you don’t remember the French names for the towns).  Above all, enjoy these great works of art.