Culture and Recreation
So much art is called impressionistic today—what exactly is impressionism?
The term “impressionism” was derived by a rather mean-spirited art critic from the title of one of Claude Monet’s (1840–1926) early paintings, Impression, Fog (La Havre, 1872). The French impressionist painters were interested in the experience of the natural world and in rendering it exactly as it is seen—not fixed and frozen with an absolute perspective, but rather as constantly changing and as it is glimpsed by a moving eye.
Georges Seurat (1859–1891) and Paul Signac (1863–1935) are also typically thought of as impressionists; however, they are more appropriately dubbed neoimpressionists since they, along with Camille Pisarro (1830–1903), advanced the work of the original group through more scientific theories of light and color, introducing deliberate optical effects to their works. Seurat and Signac are commonly referred to as pointillists for the technique, pioneered by Seurat, of using small brush strokes to create an intricate mosaic effect. The postimpressionists, artists representing a range of explorations but all having come out of the impressionist movement, included both Seurat and Signac, as well as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901), Paul Gaugin (1848–1903), Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), and Paul Cézanne (1839–1906, who was also associated with the original impressionists).
Together the impressionists paved the way for the art of the twentieth century, since as a group they “asserted the identity of a painting as a thing, a created object in its own right, with its own structure and its own laws beyond and different from….the world of man and nature” (History of Modern Art).