The early 1860s in France witnessed the birth of Impressionism through the works of Claude Monet and other Paris-based artists who established the way of painting called plein air, or out of doors and extemporaneously. The method was initiated by John Constable in Britain, but became key to the French artistic movement. The term Impressionism was coined by the French critic Louis Leroy, but he used it in a negative and derogatory sense to describe this new painting style. The artists focused on “the real life of now,” its moments and ephemeral effects of sunlight in scenes and landscapes. They captured their images with vivid colours rather than drawing details. Evanescent emotions and feelings prevailed over logical thoughts and contemplations in their vision of art. The awareness of transient nature of light and colour was the philosophical point of impressionism, which eventually made this painting style unique and idiosyncratic.
Besides plein air, two other approaches characterize this art: divisionism and complementary colours. The first one engaged applying minuscule adjoining dabs of original color to depict the passing essence of light. The second technique used pairs of colours that enhanced each other, placed side-to-side, which made the painting look brighter and reinforced the viewer’s impression.
Impressionists’ style is distinguishable thanks to such features as wee, but discernible brush strokes, precise rendering of fleeting light, lively colours, open composition, plain themes, and the presence of movement–all that which is life.
Oil paint, canvas, easel, and hog bristle brushes were the primary materials for creating impressionists’ masterpieces, among which are “Impression, Sunrise” by Claude Monet, “Olympia” by Edouard Manet, “The Boulevard Montmartre at Night” by Camille Pissarro, “Two Sisters” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “Pierrot and Harlequin” by Paul Sezanne, “The Blue Dancers” by Edgar Degas, and “Woman in Her Toilet” by Berthe Morisot.