Lesson 23: Impressionist Art 

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What You Will Learn:

  • Explore All Art Movements and Periods

    You will learn about all the leading art movements and periods, such as primitive art, ancient Greek art, the Renaissance, Romanticism, Impressionism, Modernism, and contemporary art. There is also a lot of attention to non-Western art, such as Islamic Art, Hindu Art, Chinese Art, Oceanic Art and African Art, and the globalization of the art world.

  • All Famous Artists and Their Masterpieces

    The course covers important artists like Sultan Muhammad, Fan Kuan, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Utagawa Hiroshige, Vincent van Gogh, Ilya Repin, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Banksy and many more, and discusses their most influential works.

  • Cultural and Historical Context

    Our courses also focus on the study of the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts in which artworks are created.

  • Various Media and Techniques

    You will explore different art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and digital art.

Introduction to this course:


At the end of the 19th century, between 1860 and 1870, a number of painters became impressed by the works of realist painters, especially those of the Barbizon School. Following the methods of their realist predecessors, they ventured into nature to capture the scenes they observed directly, using a wet-on-wet technique on canvas. They painted en plein air, or directly on location, in the great outdoors. Their painting style emphasized the accurate representation of natural daylight, which presented itself in far more shades in the open air than in the confines of a painter’s studio.

Het impressionistische schilderij `Het lopende meisje’ uit 1897 van de Duitse kunstschilder Max Liebermann (1847-1935) die ook enkele zomers in Laren en Blaricum werkte.
Image: The impressionistic painting `The Walking Girl’ from 1897 by the German painter Max Liebermann (1847-1935). He enjoyed painting the simple and hard-working people of the countryside. In this artwork, a girl in the Dutch village of Laren is walking to school. The bright spots on the path are from the sun shining through the leaves of the trees on the village green. They give the scene a lively appearance. It clearly shows that daylight reveals itself in many more nuances outdoors than in a painter’s studio.
Location: This painting (oil on paper and panel) by Max Liebermann is owned by the Singer Museum, located at Oude Drift 1 in the Dutch village of Laren (NH). ©Ronnie Rokebrand.

The same applied to colors; they also introduced much more refinement in their use of colors in their paintings. They discovered that they could apply shadow on the canvas using complementary contrasting colors. This was called the complementary action of colors. They disregarded all the rules and traditions of painting in order to work freely in a style with loose and quickly applied brush strokes on the canvas. They focused on representing what can be observed. In this way, they captured a moody impression on their canvases of the landscape, the city, and the people who were part of it. Thus, the art movement called impressionistic art was born.

Boulevard Montmartre in Parijs, van de kunstschilder Camille Pissarro. Het schilderij hangt in de Hermitage in Sint-Petersburg.
Image: Boulevard Montmartre in Paris, from 1897, by the impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). The painting provides a lovely depiction of the bustling life on the Boulevard Montmartre in Paris at the end of the 19th century. Carriages and horse trams dominate the scene, with numerous pedestrians navigating the promenade.
Location: This painting by Pissarro is housed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The Hermitage is located in the Winter Palace, the former winter residence of the Russian tsars in St. Petersburg, situated on the banks of the Neva River.

The Influence of the Emergence of Photography

The influence of photography on their work cannot be underestimated. There was no longer a need to represent things precisely in a painting; that was now the domain of photography. The emphasis shifted more towards the feelings a piece of art evoked; this became the distinguishing factor for art. On the other hand, painters noticed that photography also captured moments in time, which they then incorporated into their art. A consequence of this was that they began to paint not only full figures but, for instance, at the edges of a painting, only a portion of a person or body. This was a revolutionary change in art that was not immediately appreciated by everyone. Among this group of impressionist painters, primarily based in France, were the now-famous French artists Claude Monet (1840-1926), Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919).

Parijs, van de Nederlandse kunstschilder Jan Korthals
Image: Paris, an impressionist painting by the Dutch painter Jan Korthals from 1952. Jan Korthals (1916-1972) loved painting in Paris. He is also known for several portraits and many cityscapes from Amsterdam. In 2006, a book about him titled “Jan Korthals. The Last Amsterdam Impressionist” by the writer Francis van Dijk was published. The painting depicts a city view of Paris but also tells a story of fleeting love. A first clue is the word “Suze” painted on the roof of a building. He also painted this word on a roof in a watercolor from 1952 where the same woman in the same red jacket is the central figure. The painting was made in the fall; leaves fall from the trees as a sign of transience. A hunter in the painting carries a dead duck, symbolizing an end. Almost all the figures in the painting walk away from the viewer, except for the man at the kiosk, who watches his lost love. She has left with a chair, hinting she stood by the kiosk and was associated with the man. The newspapers in the kiosk also symbolize transience in the art; news is no longer news once it’s revealed. Symbolically, there’s a glimmer of hope for the man. A woman with a child in her arms walks towards us, the viewers; a symbol of the future. Whatever that may be for the man at the kiosk. Typical for impressionism is that the woman in the red vest, in the foreground of the composition, is cut off by the edge of the canvas. The scene seems frozen at a specific moment. This was a revolutionary change in impressionist art.
Location: This remarkable painting by Jan Korthals, from 1952, is part of the collection of the Gooise Galerie, an online gallery in the Netherlands. ©Ronnie Rokebrand.

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