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Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise (French: Impression, soleil levant), 1872
Oil on canvas
48 x 63 cm (18.9 x 24.8 in.)
Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

The Impressionist movement emerged in France during the 19th century as a revolutionary development in painting. Developed by Paris-based artists from the early 1860s, it rebelled against the academic tradition of historical subject matter and methods, instead strived to capture the transitory aspects of visual reality, particularly light and color. The most well-known Impressionists, such as Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir, emphasized firsthand observations of their subjects and focused on landscapes and everyday urban scenes.

Their practice often involved painting “ en plein air”, or outdoors, with a sense of spontaneity and an emphasis on capturing the effects of the changing light and atmosphere. The Impressionists used quick brushstrokes to suggest movement and the changing nature of their subjects. They also sought to capture the "impression" of a moment, rather than a detailed and accurate representation of the subject. This approach was influenced by the development of photography and the desire to create a new form of art that was distinctly modern.

The movement was named after the mocking label applied to a negative review of an 1874 Paris exhibition, where Monet's painting Impression, Sunrise (1872) was showcased. The critic Louis Leroy used the term "Impressionism" sarcastically, and the group subsequently adopted it. After the initial exhibition, Impressionism spread to other countries, such as Great Britain and the United States.

Vincent van Gogh
Wheat Field with Cypresses, June 1889
Oil on canvas
73.2 x 93.4 cm (28.8 x 36.8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Neo-Impressionism emerged in the late 19th century, coined by Félix Fénéon to describe the techniques of artists such as Georges Seurat, Paul Signac, and Camille Pissarro. These artists sought to create meticulously composed works through the study of optics and color theory, applying small dots of pigment to create an "optical mix" in their paintings, a technique now called Pointillism. Post-Impressionism emerged as a reaction to the limitations of Impressionism, with artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Paul Cézanne pushing boundaries through experimentation with color, form, and subject matter. Both movements rejected the restraints of traditional art forms and explored new approaches to painting.

Related categories



Landscape Painting

Scenes of Everyday Life

En Plein Air


Human Nature/Existence

Urban Landscape

(Inspired by) Nature

Color Study

19th Century Art

Light Art

Short and Quick Brushstrokes


Soft and Meticulous Brushstrokes