Impressionism in France

  • © ATOUT FRANCE/Catherine Bibollet

    © ATOUT FRANCE/Catherine Bibollet

Impressionism in France


Impressionism made its début in 1874, in the studio of the photographer Nadar, at a show by a group of independent artists.

This strange term coined by an art critic, first noted at the Salon des Refusés in 1863, took the artistic world by storm. For around ten years (1874-1884), this new painting, in reaction to the realist and classical painting of the Second Empire, radically changed the Salons and galleries. It conveyed the fleeting impressions of painters working out of doors with nature, town and industry as their subject. Nuances were revealed by small touches of colour, often in an unconventional way. It was not until the death of Claude Monet in 1926 that the full evolution of this now famous artistic movement could be understood.

The Impressionists travelled, conveying impressions of the landscapes of Ile-de-France, Brittany, southern Languedoc and Europe. Among the most famous names are: Edouard Manet, Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, Eugène Boudin and later Armand Guillaumin, Frédéric Bazille, Camille Pissaro, Berthe Morisot. Movements parallel to this school were also taking place abroad.  

A new trend was followed in the Salons towards Post-Impressionism, with the Pointillists and Georges Seurat, the Pont-Aven school and Paul Gauguin, the Nabis and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, early Expressionism and Vincent Van Gogh.

Some of the Impressionists ended their days in severe poverty, but nowadays foreign museums fight over their works at any price.