Impressionism Makes an Impression

The invention of the photograph during the last half of the 19th Century put painters in a challenging position, essentially destroyed the Realism movement in the art world simply because in a realistic sense a painter could not compete with a camera. But at the same time, and because of early photography´s inability to add color and deal with lighting issues, a new paradigm in the art world began to grow:Impressionism. The impressionist appellation actually came from a derogatory nickname given to the movement by a Conservative art critic after Claude Monet produced his classic, “Impression: Sunrise” and, much to the critics chagrin the movement embraced the name and developed the motto that the human eye, working with the human spirit, could render a much more accurate picture. Impressionists recognized that while improved cameras would be able to capture much more physical detail, no matter how advanced the technology became it could not match the human eye in capturing the spirit of the moment. The blending of light, movement and feeling were at the core of Impressionistic art and artists attempted to capture their personal visual sensations of an object, while sometimes ignoring the actual image of the object in front of them.

Impressionists artists believe that details would be best rendered by doing a very fast oil painting and that this style would best remove any intellectual preconceptions that the artist had, giving the art a nearly childlike innocence and naivete that was absent in all other styles, but especially in the naturalistic and realistic styles of painting. Some of the most well-known artists in history came from this period. In France Eduard Manet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre Auguste Renoir, led the movement and in the United States it wasJohn Singer Sargent, Francis Coates Jones, and Mary Cassatt. The style became so popular that even now, nearly a century and a half after its conception, organizations are offering scholarships, such as the CGC Scholarships offered by the New York Botanical Gardens and which is based on the work of Monet.

The original Impressionist movement had only just begun however when Georges-Pierre Seurat and Henry Edmund Cross began to reconsider some of its fundamentals. Their objections were mostly based on the lack of permanence in their art. But while this led to what became known as Neo-Impressionism and made a fundamental shift in the direction of the art, it only differed in two basic aspects. Figures in these paintings were much better defined the the entire composition was much more conservative. Rapid rejection and reform, became known as pointillism or confetti-ism and was founded on the idea that touches of color side by side was the best way to present an image. The artists understood, well before the twin aspects of our brain were understood by science, that the human brain would automatically blend the colors in order to make sense of the image. Other artists, such as Paul Signac, Theodoor van Rysselberghe, Georges-Pierre Seurat and Henry Edmond Cross quickly joined the new movement.