We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Impressionism?

By T Thompson
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

"Impressionism" is a term that was first used to describe visual art in the late 19th century that emphasized the conveyance of an overall impression of a particular scene, usually outdoors, using primary colors and short brushstrokes to represent the appearance of reflected light. The desired result of impressionism was to capture the artist's perception of the subject rather than the subject itself. Artists of this movement desired to portray images in the way that someone might see something if he or she merely caught a glimpse of it.

Paintings

Impressionist paintings contain very bright, bold colors and tend to have very little detail. The founders of this movement were Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. They were soon followed by such notable artists as Camille Pissarro, Gustave Caillebotte, Edgar Degas, Frederic Bazille, Edouard Manet and Mary Cassatt.

Music

Although the Impressionist movement was begun by painters, musicians were quick to follow suit. Music composers began avoiding the traditional harmony of thirds and started using more discordant chords and diverse arrangements to convey personal impressions and moods. This allowed the musicians to suggest moods and places through vague rhythms and vibrant, shifting harmonies. This style of music was first introduced by Claude Debussy, whose compositions attempted to create visual images by suggesting light and color schemes through variations in pitch, tone and rhythm. Many composers quickly followed in Debussy's footsteps, most notably French composer Maurice Ravel, who was greatly influenced by American jazz and frequently borrowed ideas from the Far East, Greece and Spain in order to "paint" rich sounds into his music.

Writings and Poetry

Writers and poets also embraced Impressionism and began to use imagism and symbolism to convey their impressions, rather than the objective characteristics of certain events and objects. The impressionist style of fiction writing often centers on the mental life of the characters by observing their impressions or sensations instead of interpreting their experiences. Impressionistic poetry often implies a response to an event or subject rather than describing the actual feelings that are evoked. This allows the reader to form his or her own ideas as to what the writer is trying to convey, as opposed to the writer telling outright how he or she sees and feels about a subject.

Influence on Art

Impressionism paved the way for a broader, more expansive way of looking at art in general. Artists were encouraged to express their own visions in their work and were free to experiment with traditional forms to create their own unique work. As a result, both artists and their audiences have evolved over the years, becoming as eclectic and innovative as the world around them.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon196270 — On Jul 13, 2011

For an example of impressionistic writing, take a look at Huysman's "Against Nature" or Proust's "In Search of Lost Time." There isn't much of a traditional plot structure. The text deliberately meanders, in an attempt to imitate the way our minds interpret the world. It's a precursor to Modernism's "stream of consciousness" style, but the two are not the same.

By anon97055 — On Jul 18, 2010

do you know the different characteristics of impressionism in music?

By anon52268 — On Nov 12, 2009

The simplest way to see impressionistic writing is relating to the character's environment through the character's five senses rather than narrative, omniscient description. The world is the character's impression, not the narrator's description. So the environment becomes the character's reality, not a narrator's cage for the character.

This actually reads better in nonfiction narrative. With skillful interviewing, a writer can learn how a "character" interacts with his or her world through the filter of senses shaped by a lifetime of experience.

For example hold a cup of coffee and what do you see, smell, taste, hear, feel, and how does it affect your alertness, your mood, your ability to receive information from your senses.

Simple? A central African culture (which I don't recall) has 16 names for a cup of liquid based on its purpose. They translate loosely to, a warming, a cooling, satisfier, or if you plan to throw it on someone, a word that means an instrument of annoyance. It's still the same cup and the same liquid.

I hope that helps. --HJ, St. Louis

By anon23324 — On Dec 21, 2008

I cannot understand the part about writers. Can anyone explain it in more simple terms?????

By anon22257 — On Nov 30, 2008

Can anyone compare and describe the impressionism of Claude Monet's "Waterlilies" to Debussy's Piano Prelude La Fille aue cheveux.

By fafobushy — On Feb 28, 2008

im looking for these questions:i need to:

Gather information about impressionism (time, period, place, reasons for and artists of impressionism.)

*talk about the most significant characteristics of impressionism

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.