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Impressionism started as a rebellion of a few young artists in Paris around 1863 against a rigid art establishment. It took the Impressionist artists about 20 years before ridicule was replaced by recognition. French Impressionism had paved the way for all subsequent 20th century art movements.
Impressionist art started with a rebellion by four art students and friends - Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Frederic Bazille. They knew each other from common painting classes where they learned conventional painting. Conventional art in France was then done exclusively in studios with subjects centered around history and Greek mythology and with dominant dark colors.
The four young artists thought this was rather boring and one day they took their easels, went to the nearby forest of Fontainbleau and started painting in the open air. They painted with swift brush strokes trying to catch the impression of the moment. Showing the effects of light on a subject was paramount for the Impressionist art movement. Claude Monet later painted several series of the same subject at different times of the day.
Another very visible difference of Impressionism was the use of light and strong colors.
In the beginning the Impressionist painters were nothing but ridiculed by the public. Art critics called the paintings unfinished and declared the artists as madmen. In newspaper cartoons pregnant women were warned not to enter an Impressionist art exhibition because of the danger of a miscarriage. In other caricatures it was proposed to fend off the Prussian enemy, who was marching towards Paris in 1870, by showing them Impressionist paintings.
It took nearly 20 years until Impressionism was finally recognized and appreciated in France.
The terms Post Impressionism and Neo Impressionism are used to categorize later artists like Paul Gauguin or Vincent van Gogh. Their art style was bolder and more expressive than early Impressionism.
Georges Seurat and his friend Paul Signac went their own way with Pointillism, a painting technique that uses many, many little dots to compose a painting.
Neo Impressionists and Post Impressionists:
Author: Author: Dieter Wanczura, May 2002, updated March 2009.
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