Friday, September 7, 2007

Impressionism

Impressionism is a style of painting that began in Paris, France in the mid-1800s. Unlike artists before them, the impressionists painted most of their paintings outdoors and liked to portray natural subjects like trees, fields, and oceans. Impressionists would often take their materials outdoors and paint what they saw. This is called painting “en plein air.”

When impressionists painted pictures of people, they made them look like people you would see everyday. Rather than painting religious figures or royalty, impressionists painted people like the local tavern owner, a girl eagerly awaiting the beginning of a play, or workers resting in bales of hay. They often used their own family and friends as subjects in their paintings.

Before the impressionists, painters usually placed the main subject of their painting in the center. It was the first thing the viewer looked at and the background was not nearly as important. Before the impressionists, the main focus was, more often than not, placed in the middle of the painting. Impressionists often put more emphasis on the scene than on the person or main subject of the painting. To do this, they painted the main subject off to the side rather than in the center of the painting. An impressionist painting looks more like a photograph in this way. A photograph captures not only the main subject, but everything around the subject and everything in the photo is important. Photography was just becoming popular in the mid-1800s and influenced the way the impressionists looked at things.

The style was called impressionism because the artists were not as exacting about painting a realistic picture. They used many short brush strokes, applying paint thickly, to create the idea, or impression, of a subject. Vincent van Gogh is a good example of this technique. The paint on his canvases is often so thick it looks 3D. Look at this painting, Starry Night Over the Rhone, and notice the short brush strokes. Also, the painting is so thick that you can see the shadows from the paint. Because of the quick, short strokes, if you stand very close to an impressionist painting and look at it, often the painting won’t look like anything but a bunch of paint blobs. When you back away from it, though, you can see the whole picture.

Another characteristic of impressionist painting is the study of light. The way light changed the shadows and colors of subjects was of much interest to impressionists. For example, Claude Monet often painted in series, making many pictures of the same subject at different times throughout the day and in different seasons to see how the lighting affected his paintings. Look at these paintings of the Rouen Cathedral and see how the lighting changed the colors Monet used.




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33 comments:

jacob said...

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Anonymous said...

This is a great article and it really helped me to undersrtand this art style. Unlike most other articles, this one gave me examples and i felt a deeper understanding of what impressionism is.

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ELLZANIO BARTONAIRE said...

Thanks so much for the information on impressionism-it has really helped me with my art homework. I had to produce an A4 piece of paper on impressionism and this told me all I neede to know- but could you keep on updating it because I am going to read it, not for homework, just because I want to. TTFN
Ellzanio Bartonairexxx

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Werry Kilbey said...

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