What is Impressionism:

Impressionism is an artistic movement that emerged in France in the late 19th century, during the Belle Époque period. The main purpose of the style was to break with the conventional techniques of Realism, focusing on the impression of light, colors and free movements of the brush strokes to create optical effects that complete the works.

This artistic movement was named after Claude Monet’s Impression du Soleil Levant (1872), one of the most famous Impressionist painters of all time.

The “soul” of Impressionism consisted of capturing the different impressions of color, light and nature’s movements throughout the day, so artists always preferred to paint outdoors, closely analyzing all the “illusions” that changes in light caused. in the colors and shadows and consequently in the overall landscape.

Some artists, such as Monet, for example, painted the same landscape several times at different times throughout the day, precisely to see the variations that changes in light transmitted to the final impression of the image.

impressionism art
impressionism art

Impressionism is regarded as the movement that gave rise to modern art. The impressionist works convey the feeling of joy and harmony, mainly due to the presence of contrasts, light and clarity of colors.

Besides Monet, other artists who stand out for their impressionist works are: Paul Cézanne (1839 – 1906), Édouard Manet (1832 – 1883), Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919), Alfred Sisley (1839 – 1899) and Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903).

Learn more about Modern Art.

Characteristics of Impressionism

Some of the main characteristics that mark the impressionist style in the fine arts are:

  • Highlight for nature themes, especially landscapes;
  • Enhancement of natural light;
  • Use of decomposed and primary colors;
  • Use of colored and luminous shadows;
  • Focus on studies of optical effects (illusions);
  • Drawings without clear contours, but formed by spots;
  • Break with the past;
  • Appreciation for painting done outdoors and not in closed studios, for example;
  • Preference for mixing colors through optical illusion rather than technique (blending), ie there is no mixing of colors to create new shades, but only the use of juxtaposed primary pigments;
  • Application of the law of complementary colors
    (see more on Color Theory)
Girl in the Trigal - Elisha Visconti - Impressionism
Girl in the Trigal – Elisha Visconti – Impressionism
Claude Monet - Impressionism
Claude Monet – Impressionism


It emerged in the last years of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as a set of styles, techniques and artistic trends based on the impressionist model. The central idea of ​​the post-impressionists was not to deny, repudiate, or forget impressionism, but to enhance it.

Many of the post-Impressionist artists began their work as Impressionists, but after grouping some techniques and characteristics of other styles, they eventually redefined themselves and followed slightly different patterns from those that are regarded as the “basic essence” of original Impressionism.

The importance of “vivid color” and two-dimensionality in works are two very important values ​​for post-impressionist artists.

Cubism, Expressionism, Fauvism and Pointillism are examples of styles that emerged from this “revolution” of traditional impressionism. Pointillism , however, should not be considered a post-impressionist movement, but rather a neo -impressionist one.

Learn more about Pointillism, Expressionism and the Characteristics of Expressionism.

In Brazil, impressionism spread in the early years of the twentieth century, with Italian-Brazilian Eliseu Visconti being the pioneer in this style in the country, and one of the most expressive representatives of the genre.

Among the Brazilian artists, the most prominent in the impressionist style were: Eliseu Visconti (1866 – 1944), Almeida Junior (1850 – 1899), Artur Timoteo da Costa (1882 – 1923), Henrique Cavalleiro (1892 – 1975), Alfredo Andersen (1860 – 1935) and Vicente do Rego Monteiro (1899 – 1970).

Impressionism in the literature

The principles of impressionism were also present in music and literature, but did not form a school or movement, as it did in the fine arts.

In the case of literature, impressionism represents the use of an accurate language, based on scientific thinking, to narrate events of everyday reality. Other topics that were also addressed by the impressionists are: eroticism, frustration, lack of communication, death and tiredness of life.

The authors appropriated metaphors to describe emotions and feelings. In this case, it was also characteristic of Impressionism the valorization of the vision of the present (“visual perception of the snapshot”), with the description of colors and shades of the landscapes.

Some of the leading writers who stand out in this style are: Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922), Raul Pompeia (1863 – 1895), Eça de Queirós (1845 – 1900) and Euclides da Cunha (1866 – 1909).

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