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Movements in Art: Impressionism, Essay Example

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The Impressionist movement began in Paris in the 19th century when a group of artists consciously began to challenge the conventions of traditional painting. The Impressionist style focused on paintings that utilized tiny brush-strokes and bright colors to depict the motions of light and shade in various environments, particularly outdoor settings. The overall feeling of an Impressionist painting was one of motion, color, and excitement as opposed to traditional paintings that emphasized realistic detail and perspective, but also seemed to have a “frozen” quality. This quality is one that is usually attached to the notion of a “still life” and it this aspect of painting in particular that Impressionist painters rebelled against.

The roots of Impressionism were political and cultural as well as artistic. For example, Manet’s Music in the Tuileries stood against convention by depicting artists, rather than royalty, as the crowning achievement of culture.  Impressionism grew out of the social conditions that were part of the Napoleonic era. As such, many art critics and historians regard the Impressionist movement as one that expresses alienation from modern life, a yearning for individuality, and a stand against the academic standards that governed art, and specifically painting, at the time. Notable Impressionist painters include: Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Cassatt. Each of these painters contributed to the evolution and worldwide embracing of the Impressionist style. Another aspect of Impressionism is that it was a reaction to the new technology of photography. While photographs were generally believed to be more realistic than even the best of traditional paintings, Impressionists stepped outside of realism and invented a style of painting that allowed for the expression of emotion and symbolism, rather than competing for realism against cameras.

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