Impression Launches a Radical Artisic Movement


When Louis Leroy published his hostile criticism of Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, he unwittingly defined one of art’s most significant movements, Impressionism. In the April 25, 1874 issue of the Paris newspaper, Le Charivari , Leroy trashed Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise, describing it as an unfinished impression of a painting rather than a piece of art. Leroy’s review, “The Exhibition of the Impressionists” highlighted independent artists — Monet, Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, and Armand Guillaumin—who exhibited their art together as the Societe Anonyme des Peintres, Sculpteurs et Graveurs (Anonymous society of painters, sculptors and engravers).


Impressionism paintings are characterized by short, quick brushstrokes that give the impression of a scene, as if the viewer caught a glance. Rather than defined lines and detail, Impressionism depicts the essence of the subject. The vibrant colors are applied without waiting for layers of paint to dry so the hues mingle together. Impression, Sunrise clearly illustrates essence rather than definition. There is an outline of what I see is a bridge and three dinghies. Nothing in clearly defined. Somehow the colors run together in a way that shows the movement of the water and rising sun.

ArtistClaude Monet Year 1872 TypeOil on canvas Dimensions 48 cm × 63 cm (18.9 in × 24.8 in) Location Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
Claude Monet
Year 1872
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 48 cm × 63 cm (18.9 in × 24.8 in)
Location Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

Impression, Sunrise (French: Impression, soleil levant)

I appreciate Impression, Sunrise. To the untrained eye, it may appear sloppy because the paint runs together. Rococo is defined by curves and soft pastel colors. Impression is more like puddles of light and color. It’s like the woman with messy bed head hair, it may look like she rolled out of bed, but you know it took her at least an hour with a curling iron and handful of styling products to get her hair to look just right. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s critic, Margaret Samu describes vivid Impressionism as a “radical technique, the bright colors of Impressionist canvases were shocking for eyes accustomed to the more sober colors of Academic painting.”

Natural Essence vs. Out of Control Nature

The Progress of Love: The Meeting by  Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Oil on canvas painted from 1771 until 1772. Dimensions 317.5 × 243.8 cm (125 × 96 in) Current location: Frick Collection Fragonard Room (140)

Take Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Progress of Love: The Meeting. Like other Rococo paintings, it’s one of four panels depicting the four scenes of a couple’s relationship. The Meeting is a Romeo and Juliet scene of forbidden lovers that culminates in what I think is marriage in the final panel. Khan Academy critics, Drs. Beth Harris and Steven Zucker describe this painting as “nature out of control.” The garden seems have over taken what looks like a patio. The rose bushes are spilling over from the gate and the pots. Just like the couples love is over flowing it looks like they are just about to have a clandestine meeting. She seems to be looking over her shoulder from some authority figure and he is checking out if the coast is clear.

I also like Rococo because I can see what’s going on. There is a story in The Meeting. In Impressionism, it’s more like stick figures (although highly artistic splashes of paint stick figures) giving a one sentence plotline. Rococo tells the scene from the mama statue scolding little Cupid for shooting his arrow into a mismatched pair to the out of control passion manifested by overgrown rosebushes and trees and the star crossed lovers.

Works Cited

Hansen, Phil. “Impressionism – Overview – Goodbye-Art Academy.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Mar. 2014. Web. 11 July 2015.

Harris, Beth, Ph.D., and Steven Zucker, Ph.D. “Fragonard, The Meeting.” Smarthistory. Art, History, Conversation. Khan Academy, n.d. Web. 11 July 2015. <;.

Samu, Margaret. “Impressionism: Art and Modernity”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)


3 thoughts on “Impression Launches a Radical Artisic Movement

  1. It was interesting to compare Impressionism to Rococo because I feel like they share a similar emotion. Both are light and calm, never striking too far into raw emotion and depicting light and floaty backgrounds and sometimes characters. They’re also very different, as the detail of Rococo paintings is gone in Impressionist works. Instead Impressionist paintings capture emotions without telling a clear story as symbolic rococo works do, and can be more melancholy than Rococo works as well. I still prefer the rococo style to the impressionist, but I can definitely see the merit in the impressionist color palates. I like how you mentioned that paints were not allowed to dry before the next color was applied. It allows the colors to mix in intricate and unique ways, which makes for incredible scenery. It’s interesting to compare such airy, curving and blended lines to older styles, like Baroque where lines were dominant parts of works, being bold and straight to help outline, frame, and create a better sense of perspective for the audience.


  2. I enjoyed your comparison between the two styles and I have to agree on some parts. A good deal of Impressionistic painters do only give you that one moment snapshot into what is going on, where older works would give you a more detailed story. I know in the readings that the influence of the camera was mentioned, after your analysis do you find this to be true? If so, do you think Impressionism influenced photography as an art? I am thinking in particular of Man Ray ( I really enjoyed your blog and I thought you had some excellent points.


  3. Your comparisons between each style and your choice of paintings was very interesting. I really like your descriptions of both styles. I did not know that is how was how Impressionism got it’s name. Your description of “The Progress of Love: The Meeting,” was so entertaining! It really described the painting perfectly.


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