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  • Payal Nayar

5 best Impressionist paintings in the art history

Impressionism, a 19th-century art movement, revolutionised the art world with its distinctive style and innovative techniques. Originating in France, Impressionism focused on capturing the fleeting effects of light and colour in everyday scenes. This movement broke away from traditional methods, embracing loose brushwork, open composition, and a vibrant palette.

Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet (1872)

Claude Monet’s "Impression, Sunrise" is the painting that gave Impressionism its name. Created in 1872, it depicts the port of Le Havre, Monet's hometown, at sunrise. The painting showcases Monet's pioneering technique of capturing the transient effects of natural light. Bold colours and unusual compositions were all present in Monet's paintings. He used broader fields of colour and smaller strokes of paint and worked with complementary and contrasting hues. 

The Dance Class by Edgar Degas (1874)
Edgar Degas's "The Dance Class" provides an intimate look at a ballet rehearsal. Created in 1874, the painting is a meticulous study of movement, composition, and the human form. Degas portrays a sense of motion through his use of fluid brushstrokes, which effectively captures the dynamism and grace inherent in ballet. His use of unusual angles and perspectives, such as the off-centre focal point and cropped figures.
Starry Night Over the Rhône by Vincent van Gogh (1888)

Vincent van Gogh’s "Starry Night Over the Rhône" embodies many Impressionist qualities. Painted in 1888, this nocturnal scene depicts the reflections of the stars and gaslights in the Rhône River in Arles, France. Van Gogh's bold use of colour and swirling brushstrokes convey the emotional intensity and beauty of the night sky. The painting captures the transient effects of light on water, a hallmark of Impressionist interest in the play of light and reflection.

Luncheon of the Boating Party" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1881)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s "Luncheon of the Boating Party" is a vibrant portrayal of a social gathering along the Seine River. Painted in 1881, this masterpiece combines portraiture, still life, and landscape painting. The painting captures the joie de vivre of the Parisian middle class, offering a glimpse into contemporary leisure activities. Renoir's brilliant use of light and colour brings the scene to life, with dappled sunlight filtering through the awning and casting a warm glow on the figures.

Olympia by Manet (1863)

Olympia’s Manet depicts a nude woman reclining on a bed, attended by a black maid who presents her with flowers. The picture is also filled with sensual symbolism in the form of the orchids, the pearl earrings, the black ribbon, and the black cat. The painting is considered a masterpiece of modern art and is currently housed in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. 

Iconic Paintings of 19th century art movement

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