Impressionism art began as a movement in the 19th century and is known for paintings that aim to depict the ever-changing conditions of life as we know it.

Many impressionistic paintings work to capture the transience of light and to capture scenes of modern life and the natural world.

While impressionist works came to the forefront during the latter part of the 1800s with painters like Monet and Renoir leading the charge, the art style is still extremely prevalent today — and is the source of many outstanding contemporary artworks.

In this article, we’re unpacking the characteristics of impressionist art that make the movement unique.

By the end, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of:

  • What techniques artists use to achieve impressionism
  • The characteristics of impressionist art that make it unique
  • Where to find the best impressionist artworks for your home

Here’s hoping we make a great impression on you!

Let’s get started.

How Artists Create Impressionist Pieces

Let’s Party by Luca Domiro
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The process for creating impressionist works is highly detailed and requires great skill. But for capable artists, the results can be absolutely astounding.

To cultivate great impressionism, artists:

  • Use small, thin brush strokes with open composition
  • Place emphasis on the accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities
  • Include movement as a key element of the viewer’s perception and experience
  • Produce unusual visual angles to destabilize the viewer

Impressionist artists aren’t focused on perfectly depicting reality, but rather exploring the reality of the human condition and how we perceive the world.

In other words, it’s not about making the scene real.

It’s about investigating the impression that we get from the scene.

Make sense? If not — don’t feel bad. It’s a lot to wrap your head around. Let’s dive deeper into the particular characteristics of impressionist art to enhance your understanding.

Prominent Characteristics of Impressionist Art

Baroness by Kseniya Scher
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When looking over a piece of impressionist art, you’re likely to notice distinct features that make the artwork stand out.

  • A Focus on Essence: This is the one of the leading characteristics of impressionist art. By using short, thin brush strokes, impressionist works capture the essence of the subject rather than its details.
  • Simultaneous Contrast: Colors are applied side by side with very little mixing involved. This makes the color appear more vivid to the viewer. Impressionists also avoid the use of black painting, cultivating greys and dark tones by mixing together complementary colors.
  • No Dry Time: Wet paint is applied to wet paint to produce soft edges and intermingling of color. By not waiting for successive applications to dry, artists can further delve into the mood of essence rather than reality.
  • Opaque: Impressionist paintings are usually painted on an opaque surface so as not to exploit the transparency of thin paint films.
  • Unique Shadows: Rather than using realistic dark shadows to tell the story of the painting, any color can be used as a shadow. For example, a blue sky might cast a blue shadow — embodying the profound influence of the sky and its effect on all that exists below it.

At its core, the characteristics of impressionism seek to inflict that larger feeling of a moment or scene, which artists typically refer to as essence.

While the genre conventions of impressionism are relatively strict, there are almost infinite directions that an artist can take to achieve beauty and originality. No subject is off limits — from humans to landscapes to abstract images — allowing for a playfulness that stuns and moves the viewer.

Where to Find the Best Impressionist Works

Autumn In Japan by Elisa Chana Cecchetti
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Now that you’ve garnered a better understanding of the characteristics of impressionist art, it’s time to introduce it into your space.

Impressionist artworks are one of the best types of paintings for your home because they can capture the essence of a room and deliver a unique mood that tells a profound story.

But without the right artist picking up the brush, the characteristics of impressionist art can fall flat.

That’s why here at Gallerima we source impressionist works from only the most talented artists across the globe to deliver an awesome buying experience.

No matter what type of impression you’re looking to impress upon a room, we’ve got you covered.

Browse our exemplary catalogue of impressionist works here.

We’re honoured to have you with us. And remember — art buying should always be fun! So take your time to explore, and find a piece that truly speaks to you!