Making an impression

Seemingly mere dabs of paint, these masterpieces created a revolution in the world of art.

January 08, 2015 07:18 pm | Updated 07:18 pm IST

Creating an idea: Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Creating an idea: Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night

Paris in the 1860s was an exciting city full of beautiful buildings, gardens, parks, theatres, and restaurants. The artists in the city loved to gather in cafes and talk about art and life. It was here that a group of young artists decided to change the old style of art. They wanted to be free to paint in their own way. The word “impressionism” was first used to describe this new way of painting by a critic who did not like it. He meant that the painting looked as if it was not finished. But the artists liked the name and used it to describe their art. This is how Impressionism was born.

The camera was invented around this time and that gave artists new ideas. Impressionist paintings began to look more like photos. In the past, the main subject was usually in the centre of the painting. Impressionist painters began to give importance to the surroundings and background too. Often, they painted the main subject in a corner of the canvas much like a photo.

Also, for the first time, chemicals were used to make ready-made paints and were sold in tubes. Artists could carry their paints without having to mix them in their studio. They started to paint pictures outdoors. This method of painting outdoors is called en plein air (pronounced as aw-plin-air ).

The difference

The picture was an impression — the style of painting was called Impressionism because artists painted quickly to create an idea instead of an exact picture.

If you look at the paintings up close, all you will see are globs of paint. But when you step back, you see the whole picture. Sometimes, the dabs of paint are so thick that they make shadows on the painting and create a 3D effect.

The painters loved to paint light falling on the objects they painted. Claude Monet (pronounced Mo-nay ), painted a series of pictures of the cathedral in Rouen, France, at different times of the day. You can tell the time of the day just by looking at the colours in his painting.

They made a mark

Claude Monet is known as the father of Impressionism because it was his painting called Impression: Sunrise that gave us the name of the new style. You can visit his home and garden in Giverny, France, where he did many of his paintings.

Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch painter who came to paint in Paris. He moved to Arles in the South of France to paint. He was brilliant, but suffered from mental illness and died when he was 37 years old. His paintings like Sunflowers , and Starry Night are well known.

Other famous impressionists are Gustave Caillebotte ( kie-uh-but ) Pierre Auguste Renoir ( Rin-war ), Camille Pissarro and Edgar Degas.

On view

You can visit this website for a closer look at paintings by them, as well as other Impressionist painters:

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