ca. 1867-1886

Impressionism is arguably the best-known art movement, with its paintings splashed across calendars, mugs, greeting cards and even umbrellas.

The key principle of impressionism is to paint what you think you see rather than what you see.  By incorporating new scientific research into the physics of colour to improve the representation of colour and tone, and applying paint in small touches of pure colour rather than big strokes, the impressionists made a break with traditional painting techniques in Europe. Their love for the outdoors added a further layer to their painting as they sought to catch the fleeting glimpses of light and colour.

The movement was a reaction against the “safe” and “tidied up” approach to landscape painting and instead perceived landscapes as made up of millions of colours creating a specific impression. Its adherents certainly caused a stir but early art criticism was to be proved wrong as impressionism gained momentum.

Impressionism-France-Monet-Water lily pondMoreover, although its cradle stood in France, impressionism spread throughout Europe through contemporary painters such as James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), who decided to cross the Channel into England after exhibiting with Edouard Manet (1832-1883) in the by-now famous “Salon of the Rejected” in Paris.

The rise and development of impressionism in England can currently be seen through the exhibition “Impressionists in England” at the Tate Britain, London, UK.

Meanwhile, impressionism continued its global spread.  Italian painter Giuseppe de Nittis took the style to Italy while in the Nordic countries, Edvard Munch, Auguste Strindberg, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Helene Schjerbeck used impressionism to develop modernism.

Impressionism-Australia-IMAG2251-250x442Australia’s Tom Roberts (1856-1931) studied art in London and developed an interest in the works of Whistler, particularly the latter’s silvery paintings of the Thames during an exhibition in 1884. Following his return to Melbourne, he passed on Whistler’s new style to contemporaries such as Charles Conder (1868-1909) and Arthur Streeton (1867-1943).

Impressionism also came to Australia via John Russell (1858-1930) who admired the works of Claude Monet (1840-1926) and spent considerable time in France, forging very much his own style.

Muses2Musings took closer look at the works of Australia’s impressionists during the exhition “Australia’s impressionists” at the National Gallery, London, UK.


  • Edouard Manet (France – 1832-1883)
  • Claude Monet (France – 1840-1926)
  • August Renoir (France – 1841-1919)
  • Edgar Degas (France – 1834-1917)
  • Auguste Rodin (France – 1840-1917)
  • Berthe M P Morisot (France – 1841-1895)
  • Guiseppe de Nittis (Italy – 1846-1884)
  • James Abbott McNeill Whistler (USA – 1834-1903)
  • Mary Stevenson Cassatt (USA – 1844-1926)
  • Camille Pissarro (Denmark/French – 1830-1903)
  • Alfred Sisley (UK – 1839-1899)
  • Tom Roberts (Australia – 1856-1931)
  • Charles Conder (Australia – 1868-1909)


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