Impressionism remains to be one of the most discussed art movements of all. It marked the beginning of a new era in art, moving against Realism and giving birth to modern art movements such as Cubism and Surrealism. There are several famous impressionist paintings.
What is Impressionism?
The art movement was developed in the 19th century by a group of painters who wanted to step away from Realism and wanted to depict everyday life and landscapes instead of historical as well as mythological imagery.
Although this group of artists faced harsh criticisms during the earlier years of Impressionism, the art style became a movement ultimately, spreading across Europe, the US, and the rest of the world.
The art movement is most noted for its distinct art style. The brushstrokes are thicker and short — the result of keeping up with the light of the surroundings to make sure the painter acquires the closest representation of the light and shadows. The images are also depictions of people and their lives and have unconventional viewing angles.
Most Famous Impressionist Paintings
Among the painters that had started the movement were Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, and Paul Cezanne. And here are the best paintings that best represent the art movement.
L’Absinthe/The Absinthe Drinker (1876)
Painter: Edgar Degas
While most Impressionist artists worked on landscapes and cityscapes, Degas was one of the Impressionist painters who focused on the personal lives of Parisians. He liked painting indoor scenes of what happens around his surroundings.
The Absinthe Drinker shows a painting of a woman, staring rather dully at the glass of absinthe on the table in front of her — seeing. Beside the woman is a what seems like an alcoholic man. In general, the imagery depicts lethargy and loneliness, making it a good representation of the growing social isolation happening in Paris at the time.
However, some people see the painting as a warning against Absinthe and even of the French in general.
Degas sought the help of artist Marcellin Desboutin and famous actress Ellen Andrée. The scene was set in Degas’ favorite cafe known as Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes.
Les Raboteurs de Parquet/The Floor Scrapers (1875)
Painter: Gustave Caillebotte
While Caillebotte’s Floor Scrapers painting was closer to Realistic style than other Impressionist paintings, it was one of the earliest paintings for the art movement. It was supposed to be a part of the biggest art exhibition in France known as the Salon. However, it was rejected by the committee as it depicted half-naked working class and they believed it was a “vulgar subject matter.”
When Impressionism became well-known, The Floor Scrapers became one of the more influential paintings as it was one of the first pieces that sparked this art revolution.
But not only that, Caillebotte’s technique in this masterpieces was astounding — capturing the light coming in the room from the window rather magnificently. The resulting shadows got deeper around the edges where the light was scarce.
Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877)
Painter: Gustave Caillebotte
Yet another of painting from Caillebotte that showcased the urban life during the 19th century in France. Paris Street; Rainy Day was perhaps Caillebotte’s greatest success in his career as it became his most popular and most ambitious work yet.
The painting depicts the daily life of Parisians one rainy day as well as the new cityscape of Paris with the help of Baron Haussmann. One of the main subjects in the imagery was the man in a black coat and top hat, accompanied by a woman.
During the time of Hausmann’s urbanization of Paris, men in black would look around the avenues and try to isolate themselves from the society. But while they may look nonchalant, they are gauging the reaction of the people with their new city. It helped Haussmann with his plan of modernizing Paris.
As with Caillebotte’s earlier work, Paris Street; Rainy Day was a combination of Realism and Impressionism. While critics claimed he “forgot the rain,” it can be clearly seen with the gloomy sky and surrounding, choosing a color palette that can depict the weather. The puddle of water between the road tiles captured it well, too.
The Water-Lily Pond (1899)
Painter: Claude Monet
As one of the lead painters of the Impressionist era, Claude Monet worked on dozens of Impressionist paintings. Most of them were well-known or deeply influenced painters then and now. However, The Water-Lily Pond remains one of his most iconic pieces alongside “Impression, Sunrise.”
The Water-Lily Pond highlights now-infamous imagery of a bridge over a pond filled with water lilies in signature Monet style. This was actually the pond that he grew over in his estate in Giverny. He transferred there in 1883 where he settled in until his death.
There have been several Water-Lily Pond paintings as Monet, just like most Impressionist artists, tried to capture the scene with different lightings. He would then paint it in different times of the day and different seasons.
Indeed, the lighting in each painting was different, evoking a new feeling for the audience.
Impression, Sunrise (1873)
Painter: Claude Monet
Impression, Sunrise was one of the first set of paintings that were showcased during the first ever exhibit of the Impressionist artists. While it isn’t the best in the exhibit and even of Monet’s works, it garnered the most attention and may even have been the reason this art movement was called Impressionism.
After the exhibit, an article was published in a satirical journal wherein critic Louis Leroy created a fictitious conversation between two attendees. The article was entitled “The Exhibition of the Impressionists” and the name stuck since then.
There are thousands of Impressionist paintings over the course of the years, especially when it spread through Europe and the US. Listing them into one article won’t be enough. But the aforementioned famous impressionist paintings can be used to introduce someone to Impressionism.
Wikipedia. Impressionism. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism
Wikipedia. L’Absinthe. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%27Absinthe
The National Gallery. The Water-Lily Pond. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/claude-monet-the-water-lily-pond
Impressionists. Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet. Retrieved from https://www.impressionists.org/impression-sunrise.jsp