Impressionism | What are the characteristics of the Impressionist movement?


The Impressionism had his origin in the 1860s and it was affirmed clearly in the Exhibition of 1874.

What is Impressionism

ananlysing artThe impressionism constitutes a rupture of the academic canons, opposing them with outdoor painting and the capture of the variations of light and the colours of Nature.

The artists seek to break free of symmetry and geometric concepts, and now obey their own sensory perception at the moment of creation.

The Impressionist movement is as well, and above all, the affirmation of the freedom of the individual expression of the artist.

It is for this reason that when we define the main features of an Impressionist painting and analyse some works of artists usually integrated in this movement, some difficulty of “definition” may be encountered; some works of artists defined as Impressionists do not contain the features that Art History has established for this movement.


But this is after all the essence of the Impressionist movement: individual freedom.

Impressionism main Features

Let’s take a glance at those which are considered the main characteristics of an Impressionist painting.

Capturing the moment

The painting should be able to capture the moment, the instant modelled by light and movement.

Monet Impressão Nascer do Sol

“Impression, Sunrise”, Claude Monet,_Impression,_soleil_levant,_1872.jpg


Light and colour

Figures change depending on the time of day and the incidence of light.

A series of paintings by Claude Monet with the same landscape at various times of the day are well-known for this.

impressionism 2

Houses of Parliament, London Claude Monet


Outdoor Painting

The artists favoured painting outdoors, which allowed the capture of the colour variations in Nature. The favoured themes were those around Nature itself, especially landscapes.


“Monet painting in his boat”, Edouard Manet

Absence of drawing

Figures should not have clear edges, because the line is an abstraction of the human being used to represent images.

impressionismo 1

Berthe Morisot, “The daughter of the artist and her nanny”.

Details of the contours of the figures without drawing


These should be bright and colourful, mimicking the visual impression that they cause on us; and not be represented as dark or black. The absence of black is another of the characteristics identified with the Impressionist painting.

Thus, the contrasts of light and shade must be obtained using complementary colours and not the light/dark “game”.


Colours and tones should not be obtained by mixing paint on the palette. They must be pure and dissociated on the canvases with loose strokes. The construction of the tones and colours becomes fundamentally a game of optics.

impressionism detail

Impression, Sunrise, detail

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1 Comment.

  • Letitia Yasika
    04/10/2022 23:04

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!