What Is Impressionism?
Perhaps the simplest definition of impressionism is "the study of the effect of light on color". Claude Monet, the foremost of French Impressionists, spent most of his artistic career studying color and learning how to express its truth in oil painting. At one point he is quoted as saying, "Color is my daylong obsession, joy, and torment."
Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renior and the French Impressionists of the late 1800's broke from the classical painting principles that were the standard of the day and created a new approach to expressing human experience. They incorporated the use of vibrant oil colors that were newly available and, freed from the constraints of dimly lit studios, embarked on painting adventures in natural sunlight.
The Impressionists painted life as it existed in the world around them: landscapes in various seasons and light, common scenes of daily life, people wearing the clothing and expressions of the day. As painters they moved away from the use of black and umber and painted what they saw: bright light and shadows of blue, purple and green. Impressionism is the true expression of representational painting, recognizing and using the full color spectrum of nature.
Among the other members of the French Impressionist movement were Edgar Degas, Berthe Morisot, Alfred Sisely, Eduard Manet, Camille Pissarro and Gustave Caillebotte. Although not formally a member of the Impressionist "movement", Vincent Van Gogh is considered an impressionist.