How did Impressionism get so Popular? Here's a Brief Recap
June 26, 2023
By Chelsea Reed
Impressionism is one of the most widely known and celebrated art genres today. Images of famous Impressionist paintings from artists like Vincent Van Gough, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir have been so widely circulated that even “non-artsy” folks could recognize the style. The bright colors and whimsical brush strokes often invoke happiness and wonder in an otherwise normal scene. But believe it or not, Impressionism was once considered art for rebels! Let’s take a peek at the genre’s fascinating 200-year history.
True to its fleeting nature, there is no official single founder of Impressionism pointed out in history. Instead, Impressionism is more akin to a revolutionary think tank made from a small artist group in France. Waves of change rocked Europe in the 1800’s that affected every aspect of the Old World life, including how people made and saw art. By the 1870’s, a grassroots art society called the Anonymous Society of Painters, Sculptors, Printmakers, etc. was born. It included Master Artists such as Edgar Degas and Claude Monet. They introduced a whole new way to see beauty in the world, called Impressionism. The first Impressionism exhibit opened in France in 1874.
Not everyone accepted the bright, casual art style, however. Art critics thought it was rebellious! Viewers were more used to the somber realistic tones of classical painting, which was the mainstream style in Europe for centuries. The avant garde artists didn’t even call their art Impressionism. It was actually an insult given by the critic Louis Leroy! He claimed Claude Monet’s piece Impression: Sunrise was an incomplete painting not worthy for display. But the name stuck, and it's been called Impressionism ever since.
The Impressionists only had eight art shows in France altogether. Sadly, their lead painter Frédéric Bazille was killed in the Franco-Prussian War. The other artists, with their diverse views and lifestyles, parted ways to pursue their own artistic interests. But the impact Impressionism made on Europe and the world was permanent. It continued to thrive as more avant garde artists began experimenting with their own modern concepts. Over time, Impressionism was accepted by the public, and it became a very popular art style.
Chelsea Reed is a copywriter who writes winning content, articles, blogs, and websites from her base in North Carolina. She might not be building sandcastles or swashbuckling with pirates these days, but the Outer Banks beaches continue to keep her young at heart.
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