a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

Impressionism


people, terms, and concepts: local color, perceived color, painterly, bourgeoisie (middle classes)


Although it’s everyone’s favorite art movement now, Impressionism (1875-90s) was originally greeted with ridicule especially for its radical use of color and painterly brushwork.

          What does it mean to say that the Impressionists tried to represent not “the object” but “the sensation produced by the object”? How did this result in a style that is different from traditional Renaissance-type naturalism?

          What is the difference between ‘local color’ and ‘perceived color’? How does this difference help to explain the use of color in traditional naturalism versus Impressionism?

          Why do many Impressionist paintings have compositions that are unbalanced or oddly cropped compared to traditional naturalistic paintings?

          What kind of subject matter did the Impressionists typically choose? How does that subject matter differ from the Realist style of the preceding generation of painters?

          What is the difference between what we called ‘sunny-side up’ versus ‘seedy underside’ representations of bourgeois leisure? How can we see this difference in comparisons between the Renoir and the Degas or Cassatt below?

Cassatt, Woman in Black at the Opera, Impressionism, 1879

Why is this painting considered Impressionist even though it does not show a particularly Impressionist use of color? How does the comparison below between Degas’ and Cassatt’s depictions of the Paris Opera (ballet) show different experiences of social spaces experienced by men and women?


Degas, The Rehearsal on Stage, French Impressionism, 1874

Why is this painting considered Impressionist even though it does not show a particularly Impressionist use of color? What aspects of middle-class social life is Degas exploring (and critiquing) here?


Renoir, Le Moulin de la Galette, French Impressionism, 1876

How does this work exemplify the new, Impressionist use of color? How does it exemplify typical Impressionist subject matter?


Monet, Rouen Cathedral (two of dozens of different versions), French Impressionism, 1894

Why did Monet paint dozens of views of Rouen cathedral? Be able to discuss especially in relation to the differences between local and perceived color.