from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Impressionism (from the Latin impressio 'impression'; via the French impressionnisme ) is a style in art history that is characterized by the atmospheric depiction of fleeting snapshots of a scene. It emerged from a movement within painting in France in the second half of the 19th century. The term Impressionism was also carried over to certain styles in music , literature , film and photography .


The word Impressionism, derived from the Latin impressio 'impression' or French impressionnisme , established itself as an art history term in 1874. As early as the early 1860s, Téophile Gautier described Daubigny's painting style, which he found too fleeting, as an "impression". Eventually, the term was picked up by some reviewers to describe the works of the young artists in the exhibition on 35 Boulevard des Capucines , which opened on April 15, 1874. The progressive-radical journalist and art critic Jules-Antoine Castagnary , who had already defended the role of his friend Gustave Courbet in the Paris Commune , discussed in his essay the question of what his group of artists should be called. With reference to Monet's painting Impression - soleil levant (Impressions - Sunrise), he commented: “If you wanted to characterize them with an explanatory word, you would have to create the new term Impressionists . They are impressionists in the sense that they do not depict a landscape, but the impression it creates. "

In art historical literature, the art critic Louis Leroy is often cited as the creator of the term Impressionism. He published an article in the satirical magazine Le Charivari on April 25, 1874 and derived the derogatory term from Monet's painting. However, as Ian Dunlop notes, the term Impressionism was already in use in the 1860s and 1870s, and was used in connection with other landscape painters before Monet. As a result, numerous artists used this term, which was then officially used in the preparations for the third Impressionist exhibition in 1877.

Socio-historical background

German Impressionism in particular was interpreted by some social and art historians as a phenomenon of decadence , such as Karl Lamprecht and Eckart von Sydow at first . According to Lamprecht, it can be understood as an aesthetic reaction to naturalism , against whose "truth-seeking activism" and all too bold statements an aversion developed by the bourgeoisie, seeking pleasure and relaxation, which no longer had the "enthusiasm of the early days ", but in the business of had his general manager represented and instead sought cozy comfort and diversion. This was accompanied by the rediscovery of the differentiated culinary cultures of Hellenism and Rococo as well as the Burgundian-Flemish culture, which embodied the "longing for a more beautiful life".

Impressionism in painting

The painting Impression - soleil levant (1872) by Claude Monet gave the movement its name. However, it emerged much earlier. Édouard Manet's works from the 1860s already show fundamental elements of the beginning break with academic doctrine - for example music in the Tuileries . The Impressionists' first group exhibition took place in 1874 in the studio of the Parisian photographer Nadar .

The representation of light and the atmospheric conditions became the main painterly task in Impressionism. Color was seen as a result of light and atmosphere and represented as a carrier of light. The partial abandonment of black and earthy tones brightened the color palette.

The artists broke away from the pictorial function. The immediacy of the snapshot and the randomness of the image detail are characteristic features of Impressionist works of art. New insights into optics resulted from Chevreul's color theory . The industrial production of oil paints in lockable lead tubes (instead of pig bladders), patented in 1841 by John Goffe Rand , made open-air painting possible. This new painting practice, which was related to a new worldview and view of life, spread across Europe around 1900. From there it also reached the American continent and as far as Australia.

The German Impressionism , however, provides a special way. It develops from the naturalism by "a gradual refinement of the same stylistic means, namely by the side of the sensationalist way, whereby all non-material factors are obsolete [...]" and you instead to limited the visual impression. So'll Max Liebermann placed by the "loosening of his painting technique and a preference for light trickled canopies slowly to the Impressionists [...], without abandoning its naturalistic achievements." The same effects in unimpresionistischen topics often. Unlike in France, “mixed products” are created that lack charisma.

Impressionism in Music

While many naturalists such as Heinrich Hart rejected music as a means of expression of a “truth-seeking actionism”, the impressionists considered the “objective dreaming away” to finely graduated colored chords often a pleasure. In the music before and around the turn of the 20th century , one speaks of the style of impressionism , to which Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde referred.

Claude Debussy (1862–1918), who resisted being called an Impressionist, is considered to be the founder . For him, music is “sound and color art”. In this way, impressionistic soundscapes are created in his works, in which the atmosphere and mood are represented musically.

Debussy's melodic motifs rarely develop and are not processed or carried out counterpoint , as was usually the case. Rather, they appear for a brief moment, show themselves in rapidly changing harmonics and are immediately replaced again. He was inspired by the perception of nature, but also by Asian music, which he got to know at the world exhibition in Paris in 1889 .

An important contemporary of Debussy was Maurice Ravel (1875–1937), whose impressionistic study of instrumentation for a large orchestra, Boléro , is particularly popular. English Impressionism was shaped by artists such as Cyril Scott (1879–1970) and John Ireland (1879–1962).

Impressionism in Literature

The term Impressionism is used in German literary studies as a literary-historical classification term, but without a consistent scientific consensus, as it is often perceived as too "imprecise". Impressionist literature is partly attributed to symbolism and vice versa.

Impressionism in Photography

Mary Devens, The Ferry, Concarneau , photo engraving, 1904

At the end of the 19th century a number of photographers fought for a claim to art by staging the art of their time with their means. The Pictorialists set, inspired by thinkers such as Antoine Claudet and Peter Henry Emerson , systematically blur as a stylistic device. With his rubber bichromatic prints, Robert Demachy staged ballet recordings that were very similar in style and mood to paintings by Edgar Degas . In addition to Demachy's pictures, works by the Pictorialists Heinrich Kühn , Alfred Stieglitz , Gertrude Käsebier , Edward Steichen , Adolphe de Meyer , Mary Devens and Alvin Langdon Coburn have an impressionistic appearance.

Conversely, photography had a fruitful effect on Impressionist painting. Random-looking compositions with cut people, wagons and animals made their entrance. Demachy had modeled the ballet scenes by Degas. For his part, Degas used the snapshot effect, the deliberate randomness of image detail and composition, as a stylistic device in his paintings. Gustave Caillebotte , who showed his paintings for the first time at an Impressionist exhibition in 1876, accused his critics of depicting reality “photographically”, that is, too realistically. He anticipated techniques and topics that only established themselves in photography in the 1920s as “ New Seeing ”. Photographers like André Kertész , Wols and László Moholy-Nagy are particularly close to Caillebotte's work. Some of your pictures take up the same motifs or show a section from the same perspective. There are, for example, shots of streets and squares in a steep top view, as can already be found in Caillebotte's paintings.

In general, one speaks today of impressionistic photography when certain techniques are used to achieve optical effects and moods, such as the conscious movement of the camera during a long exposure, e.g. B. when tracking a moving object. Also through a wide-open aperture through which only one level of the image is sharply drawn and z. B. branches in the foreground or the entire background appear blurred, or by choosing specific filters, impressionistic effects can be achieved.

Impressionism in film

Impressionist film is an aesthetic concept in cinematographic art that is primarily associated with French films of the 1920s. Directors such as Germaine Dulac , Louis Delluc , Jean Epstein , Abel Gance , Marcel L'Herbier and Dimitri Kirsanoff referred in these works to the impressionist painting of the 19th century and to the music of impressionism. The term was established by film historians such as Henri Langlois and Georges Sadoul .


  • Author collective Iris Schaefer, Caroline von Saint-George, Katja Lewerentz, Heinz Widauer, Gisela Fischer - Wallraf-Richartz Museum & Fondation Corboud, Cologne - Albertina, Vienna: Impressionism - How light came onto the canvas. SKIRA editore, Milano 2009. 311 pp. ISBN 978-3-9502734-0-3 .
  • Wolf Arnold: On the trail of impressionism. A trip through France . Fischer, Frankfurt / M. 2008, ISBN 978-3-8301-1168-9 .
  • Nathalia Brodskaya: Impressionism . Parkstone Books, New York 2007, ISBN 978-1-85995-652-6 .
  • Norma Broude (Ed.): Impressionism. An international art movement, 1860–1920 (“World impressionism”). Dumont, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-8321-7454-0 .
  • Lukas Gloor , Dieter Pfister , Stefan Streiff : Impressionism in Switzerland - an art trip to Basel, Baden, Zurich, Winterthur . Vernissage-Verlag, Heidelberg 2000
  • Jean Cassou : Les impressionnistes et leur époque , essay, Paris 1953, German The Impressionists and their time , Berlin 1953, Stuttgart 1957.
  • Richard Hamann , Jost Hermand : Impressionism. (= Epochs of German culture from 1870 to the present. Volume 3.) Munich, 2nd edition 1974.
  • John Rewald : The History of Impressionism. The fate and work of the painters of a great epoch of art . Dumont, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8321-7689-6 .
  • Sue Roe: The private lives of the Impressionists ( "The private lives of the impressionists"). Edition Parthas, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-86601-664-4 .
  • Maurice Sérullaz (Ed.): Lexicon of Impressionism. With a list of exhibitions and important retrospectives, a glossary, a list of figures, a register of names and photo credits ("Encyclopédie de impressionisme"). Edition by Nottbeck, Cologne 1977, ISBN 3-8046-0011-5 .
  • Ingo F. Walther: Painting of Impressionism. 1860-1920 . Taschen-Verlag, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8228-5051-9 .
  • Claire A. Willsdon: In the gardens of impressionism ("In the gardens of impressionism"). Belser, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-7630-2432-8 .

Audio books

  • Camille Monet and the Others - The Models of the Impressionists , ISBN 3-936301-06-9 , a coproduction with the Kunsthalle Bremen.

Web links

Wiktionary: Impressionism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Impressionism  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ian Dunlop: The Shock of the New. Seven Historic Exhibitions of Modern Art. New York 1972, p. 83-84 .
  2. ^ Théophile Gautier: Abécédaire du Salon de 1861 . Paris 1861, p. 57-61 .
  3. ^ Jules-Antoine Castagnary: Exposition du boulevard des Capucines: Les Impressionistes . In: Le Siècle . April 29, 1874, p. 3. (emphasis in the original) .
  4. Felix Krämer: Monet and the birth of impressionism . In: Felix Krämer (ed.): Monet and the birth of impressionism . Munich / London / New York 2015, p. 13 .
  5. ^ Ian Dunlop: The Shock of the New. Seven Historic Exhibitions of Modern Art . New York 1972, p. 83-84 .
  6. ^ Charles Moffett: Introduction . In: Charles Moffett (Ed.): The New Painting. Impressionism 1874-1886 . Geneva 1986, p. 17–24, here p. 18 .
  7. ^ Karl Lamprecht: To the recent German past: First volume: Tonkunst - Bildende Kunst - Poetry - Weltanschauung. (= German history first supplementary volume.) Berlin 1902.
  8. ^ Eckart von Sydow: The culture of decadence. Dresden 1922.
  9. Hermand, Hamann 1974, p. 138.
  10. Hermand, Hamann 1974, p. 144.
  11. ^ Richard Hamann : Impressionism in life and art. Cologne, DuMont Schauberg 1907.
  12. ^ Johan Huizinga : Autumn of the Middle Ages , German translation based on the Dutch edition from 1941, Stuttgart 1987, p. 29.
  13. ^ Mathias Schulenburg: John G. Rand receives patent for the lockable lead tube , in:, September 11, 2016.
  14. Jost Hermand, Richard Hamann: Epochs of German culture from 1870 to the present. Volume 3: Impressionism. Munich 2nd ed. 1975, p. 178.
  15. Jost Hermand , Richard Hamann: Epochs of German Culture from 1870 to the Present : Volume 3: Impressionism. Frankfurt 1977, p. 138.
  16. Debussy in a letter to Durand in March 1908 on the term Impressionism also in relation to his music: “J'essaie de faire 'autre chose' - en quelque sorte, des 'realites' - ce que les imbéciles appelement 'impressionisme', terme Also employé que possible, surtout par le critiques d'art qui n'hésitent pas à en affubler Turner, le plus beau creator de mystére qui soit en art “ ; quoted from Oswald d'Estrade-Guerra: Debussy - l'homme, son oeuvre, son milieu , Verlag H. Lemoine, 1962, p. 144
  17. a b Beaumont Newhall, History of Photography , Munich 1998: Schirmer / Mosel, ISBN 978-3-88814-319-9 , pp. 145–169
  18. a b Boris von Brauchitsch, Little History of Photography , Stuttgart 2002: Reclam, ISBN 978-3-15-010502-3 , p. 76
  19. Simone Philippi, Ute Kieseyer (Ed.): Alfred Stieglitz. Camera work. The Complete Photographs 1903-1919 , Cologne 2008: Taschen, ISBN 978-3-8228-3784-9
  20. a b Karin Sagner, Ulrich Pohlmann, Claude Ghez, Gilles Chardeau, Milan Chlumsky and Kristin Schrader: Gustave Caillebotte - An Impressionist and Photography . Ed .: Karin Sagner, Max Hollein. Hirmer Verlag, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-7774-5411-5 , p. Publishing information .