Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant

What is Impressionism?

While John Cutruzzola does not feel the need to follow the study of one particular subject matter or the practice of one rigidly imposed style, it is very clear the much of his art is inspired by the Impressionism movement. Let’s explore this revolutionary style in more detail.

Bold Beginnings

Impressionism made its debut during the mid-19th century, at a time when Napoleon ruled France and the Académie des Beaux-Arts dominated French art. The Académie was the controlling body of the only official, state-sponsored exhibition – called the Salon – and very strictly devoted to precise, carefully finished pieces of art. In the early 1870s, the forebearers of Impressionism banded together to form the Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs (Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers) to exhibit their works independently and, as they say, the rest is history.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bal du moulin de la Galette
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Bal du moulin de la Galette

Style and Method

The style of the time was very precise, very realistic with restrained colours and muted tones. The Impressionists challenged this style with their own impressions of the world around them. They chose to show the world in a more candid way with intense colours, realistic scenes and changing light patterns. The Impressionists used small, thin brushstrokes to depict the vibrant beauty of nature and the constant movement of light and tone.

The Impressionists also revolutionized a variety of techniques, including the impasto method, where paint is laid on in very thick layers. Colours were applied side by side with little mixing to produce a more vivid effect. Wet paint was applied atop wet paint without drying to create softer edges. They explored vibrant new shades of yellow, blue, purple, and green, especially in their outdoor landscapes.

Household Names

Some of the founders of the Impressionism movement are, to this day, some of the most recognizable names in art history.

Claude Monet is arguably the most prolific of the Impressionists. It was his painting Impression, Sunrise which inspired the name of the movement. He is best known for his interpretations of his lush gardens and especially for his work involving water lilies.

Auguste Renoir was known for his classic Impressionist representations of the human form, especially the female nude. His warm sensuality can be felt throughout his prolific body of work.

Works by these artists and many more Impressionist masters can be seen during Impressionism in the Age of Industry: Monet, Pissarro and More, running February 16 – May 5, 2019, at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

John Cutruzzola is a fine artist based in Brampton, Ontario.
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