Impressionism (1870-1920)

Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet, in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris (Photo Public Domain)
Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet, in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris

France's greatest conribution to the history of art is the late 19C Impressionist movement

Formal, rigid Neoclassicism and idealized Romanticism rankled with some late 19th century artists.

They were interested in painting directly from nature without artistic conventions in the way, seeking to capture the fleeting impression light made when reflecting off objects.

They adopted a free, open style, deceptively loose compositions, swift visible brushwork, and often light colors, tending to concentrate on landscapes and scenes of daily life.

Unless otherwise specified below, you'll find some of the best examples of their works in France at Paris's Musée d'Orsay.

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Artists & examples of Impresisonism in France

Manet's (1832-83) groundbreaking 1863 Picnic on the Grass and naked Olympia weren't Impressionism proper, but they helped inspire the movement with their harsh realism, visible brushstrokes, and thick outlines.

The movement officially began with an 1874 exhibition in which Monet (1840-1926) exhibited his loose, Turner-inspired Impression, Sunrise (in Paris's Musée Marmottan), which one critic picked to lambaste the whole exhibition, deriding it all as "Impressionist." Far from being insulted, the non-establishment artists in the show adopted the word for their exhibits though the 1880s.

Paris's Musée d'Orsay is the world's greatest museum of Impressionism. Here you'll find works by Renoir (1841-1919; originally a porcelain painter, which explains his figures' ivory skin and chubby pink cheeks), Sisley (1839-99; a great landscapist of heavy brush and bright colors), Pissaro (1830-1903; a Jewish-Creole landscapist who taught Cézanne, Gauguin, and Mary Cassatt and later took on Seraut's divisionnist/pointillist ideas), and Degas (1834-1917; another half-Creole who was an accomplished painter, sculptor, and draughtsman[md]his pastels are particularly memorable).

The greatest Impressionist-era sculptor–to many, the greatest since Michelangelo–was Rodin (1840-1917), whose remarkably expressive bronzes refused to idealize the human figure as had his Neoclassical predecessors. His former Paris studio is now teh Musée Rodin devoted to, among others, his Burghers of Calais, The Kiss, and The Thinker.

Where to find Impressionist art in France

Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet (Photo Public Domain)
Musée d'Orsay
Paris: Eiffel Tower

Did someone say "Impressionists"? The Orsay Museum houses the world's largest collection of Impressionist art

The Pompidou is not usually this uncrowded; I guess they cleared the rooms so President Barack Obama could admire the works in peace (Photo by Pete Souza)
The Pompidou
Paris: Hôtel de Ville

The Centre George Pompidou (sometimes called the Beaubourg) is Paris's premier modern art museum

Le Penseur (The Thinker) in the garden of the Rodin Museum of Paris (Photo by Nicholas Boos)
Rodin Museum
Paris: Eiffel Tower

Rodin's Paris studio is one of the world's greatest small museums, filled with and surrounded by the master's sculptures

The always popular place du Tertre (Photo by Alessandro Tortora)
Paris: Montemarte

The original Bohemian 'hood: The Montmartre district of Paris

One of the two oval Monet Waterlilies rooms in the basement of L'Orangerie (Photo by fmpgoh)
Paris: Louvre

Be surrounded by 360º of Monet Waterlillies

Impression, sol levant (Impression, Sunrise) (1872) by Claude Monet—the painting that inadvertently lent its name to the artistic movement of Impressionism (Photo Public Domain)
Musée Marmottan-Monet
Paris: Bois de Boulogne

One hundred Monets—and other Impressionist works—including the ur-Impressionist painting, Impression, sol levant


Impressionist artists with works in France

Self Portrait with Beret (1886) by Claude Monet, in a Private Collection (Photo by unknown)

The king of the Impressionist movement

Self-Portrait (c. 1875) of Paul Cézanne, in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo courtesy of the Musée d

A great Post-Impressionism French painter of lovely landscapes, portraits, and still-lifes

Self Portrait, aged 21 (1855) by Edgar Degas, in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo courtesy of the Musée d

French Impressionist master of ballet dancers—whether painted, pastel, or cast in bronze

Self Portrait (1889) by Paul Gauguin, in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (Photo courtesy of the Musée d

The Post-Impressionist who went native in the South Pacific

Photograph of Édouard Manet in 1874 by Nadar (Photo by Nadar)

This 19C French painter paved the way for the Impressionists to come

Self Portrait (1903) by Camille Pissarro, in the Tate Britain, London (Photo courtesy of Tate Britain)

An Impressionist turned pointillist—and great teacher of other painters

Self Portrait (1910) by Pierre Auguste Renoir, in a Private Collection (Photo by Renoir)

An Impressionist fond of apple-cheeked women and children

Photograph of Auguste Rodin c. 1898 by Dornac (Photo by Dornac)

The greatest sculptor since Michelangelo

Portrait of Georges Seurat in 1888 (Photo by Unknown)

The post-Impressionist famous for making tiny dots meld into an image

Impressionism (1870 1920) Tours
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