Impressionism

These artists broke new ground with sketchy, light-filled canvases shown in independent exhibitions.

c. 1874 - 1886

Beginner's guide

These artists each sought their own solutions for the depiction of modern life. Can we even call Impressionism a unified style?

videos + essays

The Impressionists painted city parks and city streets, train stations and ballet rehearsals, cafés and lily ponds.

Impressionist color
Impressionist color

Blue snow and violet-tinted flesh—the Impressionists radically changed our expectation of color.

Impressionist pictorial space
Impressionist pictorial space

The surprising pictorial effects of modern art may seem at first like errors, but they are quite intentional!

What does “Impressionism” mean?
What does “Impressionism” mean?

Impressionist paintings—once considered sloppy and unfinished—draw huge crowds to museums today.

A summer day in Paris: Berthe Morisot’s <em>Hunting Butterflies</em>
A summer day in Paris: Berthe Morisot’s Hunting Butterflies

The subject takes control over the outdoor setting, expressing her independence in spite of limitations.

How to recognize Monet: <em>The Basin at Argenteuil</em>
How to recognize Monet: The Basin at Argenteuil

In the suburbs, Parisians escaped the pressures of modern life. Monet painted their sun-drenched pleasures.

How to recognize Renoir: <em>The Swing</em>
How to recognize Renoir: The Swing

Renoir wanted to forget everything he knew about how to paint so that he could render light as it really is.

Berthe Morisot, <em>The Cradle</em>
Berthe Morisot, The Cradle

Lacking access to the cafes and bars male Impressionists painted, Morisot mastered intimate domestic interiors.

Monet, <em>The Gare Saint-Lazare</em>
Monet, The Gare Saint-Lazare

Hazy with smoke, the architecture of the train station and technology of the iron engine dissolve before our eyes.

Looking east: how Japan inspired Monet, Van Gogh and other Western artists
Looking east: how Japan inspired Monet, Van Gogh and other Western artists

Isolated for centuries, Japan opened to trade in the 1850s, providing fresh inspiration for Western artists.

Gustave Caillebotte, <em>The Floor Scrapers (Les raboteurs de parquet)</em>
Gustave Caillebotte, The Floor Scrapers (Les raboteurs de parquet)

The male body at work is gorgeously glorified in Caillebotte’s canvas, raising questions of class and sexuality.

Gustave Caillebotte, <em>Man at his Bath</em>
Gustave Caillebotte, Man at his Bath

Why was it considered troublesome to exhibit this painting of a naked man when female nudes were the norm?

Gustave Caillebotte, <em>Paris Street; Rainy Day</em>
Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day

Though called “an Impressionist in name only,” Caillebotte is all about light and movement–just like his peers.

Selected Contributors