June 08, 2023
By Chelsea Reed
When you think of the word Impressionism, what do you see? Do bright colorful dots flash through your mind? Do you remember the scent of old paint on a museum trip in your childhood? Is it simply admiring a pretty painting of a pond or a woman with flowers? Or is it a burst of excitement at the thought of the old converging with new?
It’s no secret that Impressionism means a lot of things to different people. That’s one of the many things that make it great! How do you tell the difference between impressionistic art and another genre? There are a few key trademarks that make it stand out. Here’s what to look for.
Unlike Realism, which focuses on stark realistic details, Impressionism features the beauty of a subject’s vague impression in the bigger picture. If you look at a painting up close and only see splotches but then the image comes to take form as you step away, you’ll know for sure that’s an impressionistic painting.
Impressionism is much more than colorful imagery. It is a deliberate attempt to portray dynamic natural light through the art medium. Impressionism has less detailed focus of form, but cares more about the accuracy of moving light and shadow. That’s what makes an impressionistic painting feel so alive!
Because Impressionistic paintings emphasize light and color to convey objective imagery, it is customary for them not to have any black paint. This creates a brighter, cleaner feel of an impression in the piece. Using color also depicts more accurate shadows. No black pigments also make short bold brush strokes more practical to work with.
While Impressionism does not define a hard-and-fast rule on subject matter, it’s common for Impressionist artists to capture the beauty they find in everyday life. It sounds odd today, but modern “slice of life” was a radical concept when the Impressionist movement was young. Traditional art topics from that day were epic scenes from history and Greek or Roman mythology. Seeing whimsical interpretations of the average next to such sombering topics in art galleries must have been quite a shock to viewers!
Witness the hallmarks of Impressionism for yourself in Seaside Art Gallery’s very own 2023 Online Exhibition Series: Impressionistic Art. This special exhibit curates gorgeous artwork from Impressionist artists around the world. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in Impressionism… from an art movement revolution to a golden classic that’s here to stay.
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