Impressionism: The Lasting Impression!

By Nadeem Alam

A style that turned into a movement and then brought about the change at a great level in technique along with the ideology of the painting during the last third of 19th century that emphasized the perception of an artist up to an extant where it was adjacent to the importance of the subject itself.
Although Impressionism is taken chiefly as a movement of Fine Arts, but it also influenced other forms of artistic expression, as literature and music also got a slight change and new emergence under this movement. In literature; it emphasized more on immediate aspects of objects or actions without paying attentions to details, whereas in late 19th and early 20th century music, lush harmonies, subtle rhythms and unusual tonal colors were used to stir up moods and impressions. In both these forms of expression, under influence of Impressionism, recreation of objective reality was discouraged and replaced by the practice of developing one’s subjective response to a piece of work to actual experience.

Fine Arts generally, found this theory more suitable for its somewhat blur and sometime vague objects; where many things could be said through reflecting light and incomplete forms, crafted through quick range of short strokes of pure and bright colors. On the other hand, sculpture, hit upon this style with partially modeled volumes, surfaces roughened to uneven reflection of light.

So, the immediate visual impression created by the use of unmixed primary colors, small strokes, partially modeled shapes and the element of reflected light turned out to be the main characteristics of Impressionism. Free movement of the painter’s arm with brush in his hand and eyes on the object, made this style more popular and satisfying for all, as there was more margin for the artist’s point of view and angel of perception to be rendered through a more human and more energetic approach. It was really a treat to imprison the changing light and varying ambiance in no time. This brought in an altogether new move toward observing normal things under certain spell of making an “Impression” for that; artist’s eye befell as the platform to study and process available panorama.

Paul Cézanne; a classic post- impressionist painter himself, provided the concept in these words when he hyped Claude Monet as:

“Monet is only an eye, but what an eye!”

Claude Monet (1840-1926) and his early work “Impression: Sunrise” has been regarded as the beginning of that epoch studded with vivid hues and fluent brush strokes, while Edouard Manet (1832-1883), Camille Pissaro (1830-1903), Edgar Degas (1834-1917) and Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) were not behind him in the crafting of this comparatively simple and incredibly depict able way of expression through everlasting Impressions.

When Manet painted everyday objects in this style, it was like the attempt to make viewer grope that view out of ordinary looking things that an artist, by his or her extraordinary vision, was able to see, in other words, Impressionism enabled an artist to convey the emotional element of feeling ordinary things that was never revealed before through meticulous and calculated Classicism or overwhelming Romanticism.

On the other hand French landscape was getting vent through the revelation of Pissaro, as rivers were then flowing and lush green fields were feeling the wind blowing across, the element of life was at swing with the joyous motion of the brush synchronized with the inner stance of the artist.
Degas’ dry pastels and oily paints caught up the momentum of the ballet dancers in a way that facial expressions were as important as the kinesics were. The light and darks put adjacent to the flare of dancing body, detailing the stress on musically motivated feet and purposeful eyes became the identity of that great artist and a unique feature of that style.

Apart from these big names, there were many other artists of diverse origins who were greatly moved by this close to instinct movement.

Armand Guillaumin (1841-1927) and Berthe Morisot (1841-1927) in France, Emil Jakob Schindler (1842-1892) in Austria, Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) in America and Luis Jimenez Aranda (1845-1928) in Spain, were following the impressionist style to reveal new horizons.

The ways of transportation were now fast enough to take someone to countryside in the morning and allow one to be back by evening.
Thanks to the surprise invention as train, many Impressionist painters could go in the morning to a riverside or a panoramically alluring countryside, where they stirred the view with their feelings and blended the rapidly changing light in the darks of simple bits and pieces to fashion their coarse canvas.

Impressionism influenced a variety of artists in large number, many stuck to it for rest of their work and then came a new umbrella term “ Post-Impressionism”, that encompassed a number of artists who were influenced by Impressionism but took their art in other directions, we could not elaborate Post-Impressionism in any well defined style but in general it was less idyllic and more emotionally charged than Impressionist work.

The classic Post-Impressionists were Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Paul Cezanne (1839-1906), Vincent van Gough (1853-1890), Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901).

The work of Gauguin with flat and simple anatomy and garlanded tan-skin figures of Tahiti Island became his identity while the Dutch read head (Van Gough) with his unique style and dragging brush made an ever-lasting impression as his “Sun Flower” or “The Wheat Field” in terms of technique and “The Potato Eaters” in concept inspired many to come.

Toulouse-Lautrec introduced a new less oily style with oil paints that gave an effect more like the pastels could create and laid the foundation of poster-making through his trouble-free emphatically painted areas without diminutively drawn objects.

While the groups of Pointillists and Les Nabis, were also generally included among the Post-Impressionists.

That movement was later overwhelmed by the angular curve and edges of Cubism (1908-1914) and the force of Expressionism (1905-1925). Later the absurdity of Dadaism (1916-1920), dynamic attitude of 20th century through Futurism (1909-1944) and the soft, delicate ambiance of imagination and dreams of Surrealism (1920-1930) took art to new lands where the power and freedom of expression distorted the classical forms and introduced it to Abstract Expression (1940-1960).

20th century with all its industrial revolution took art by surprise and the forceful modern art came out of making and developed itself as powerful medium, if we grope deeply, we could find the Impressionism as the bridge from classical style to the threshold of modern one.
Undoubtedly, Impressionism could be considered as the foundation of gigantic, multifarious skyscraper of Modern Art.

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