Impressionism exploring the moods and emotions from the subject instead of a detailed technique

Survey of the Arts, Signature Assignment, By Anna Griffith, 12/10/16


a combination of art (visual art, musical, and literary) ....

....and moods, emotions, and feelings.

Influential and important events

1: The French Academy - Impressionists were iconoclasts. The French Academy of Art was seen as a hard critic of un-traditional (fine finish, attention to detail) art. In opposition of these critics, artists grouped together to begin new ways to express light, color, reflection, and brushwork technique. In doing so, they were shunned from the academic art institution.

2: Science: "Scientific thought at the time was beginning to recognize that what the eye perceived and what the brain understood were two different things" ( As technology, science, and discoveries advanced, more was understood about our interpretations of senses.

3: Expansion: As France was expanding, populating, and growing, with large apartment complexes, wider streets, and train stations, the impressionists were going the opposite direction, bringing the quaint, quiet, countryside back for city-dwellers to remember and cherish. This expansionist society influenced the impressionistic artists to go back to their roots and the familiar.

This period was characterized by emotions; impressionistic art attempted to convey relationships, shadows, weather, mood, atmosphere, and context in their brush strokes and color choices. Colors were pure, bold, and intense; scenes were unfinished, avoided clarity and linear perspective

Examples in visual art, musical composers, and literature


San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk
Garden at Veheuil
The Artist's Garden at Giverny
The Water Lily Pond
Walk on the Cliff at Pourville

Monet was a classic impressionistic painter. His artwork conveys all the essential elements of impressionistic art. He was able to capture scenes from everyday life and bring them to life with his painting. He is well known for his use of shadows, expression, mood, and very small brush strokes. He can pick up what the scientists were discovering about the relation to the eye and the brain, depicting breathtaking scenery.

Here is a fun cartoon video about the life of Monet.


Flowers in a Crystal Vase
Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil
Artemis Dreaming, Spring

Manet was another influential figure in the artistic impressionistic movement during the French movement away from the French Academy of Art and away from the big city scenery. He was influenced by his friend and fellow art colleague, Monet. Coming from an upper class family in Paris, Manet's work was born right into the impressionistic era. A characteristic of his art is the use of light colors against dark backgrounds, loose brushstrokes, alla prima painting, which means he would not layer painting but place the original color creating a real life, shadow, light and atmosphere effect.


Here you can listen to my favorite of Debussy's work, titled Clair de Lune, found in a popular modern movie, Ocean's Eleven. I remember learning it for my Junior recital in high school. Being able to immerse yourself into and connect with such a moving piece of music was one of the favorite memories. I still love playing this song simply because of the emotions it portrays.

Below is the same song without the movie to distract you, if you prefer to just focus on the beautiful music.

Debussy's ability to express emotion in his music is very characteristic of Impressionism. Nocturnes were also popular during this era.

Like Debussy's music, his life was characterized by great extremes, ups and downs, of emotions and material possessions. In his music, listeners can hear such a spectrum of emotions, intensity, and gentleness and boldness. Similarly, his life was a spectrum of rich and poor, love and depression. All this contributed to the sensitivity expressed in his music.


Here are two songs by Ravel. His works are outstanding to me in their ability to incorporate both amazing piano technique, but also such energy, emotion, highs and lows, connecting the performer, listener, and the music all together through human emotion.

This last song I included only because I thought it was one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard on the piano. Enjoy!

His work, like Debussy's, had many characteristics of impressionistic composers, expressing emotion, mood, boldness, and intensity. Ravel began writing and playing the piano at the early age of 14 in Paris, France, the epicenter of impressionistic art.



Literature followed the "rule breaking" that characterized the artists of this period, by breaking tradition and taking writing outside the box.

Impressionism began to change literature in the way words were used to express emotion, depth, and portrayal of characters and scenes in novels. Detailed descriptions were utilized, bringing characters to appear to come to life. Literature began mentioning natural science and scientific procedures that was becoming prominent and popular. It was a "record of social landscape", emphasizing "simplicity and genuineness of life while leaving some details to our imagination". Writing was based on observations of life. Authors used sensory images, described mental states of characters, and gave "souls to the characters". (

The heart of darkness, 1899, is an example of these characteristics of impressionistic literature. Author Joseph Conrad wrote the novella. Here is a trailer for a movie based off the book.

To watch a short video that summarizes and analyzes the book, you can youtube "Heart of Darkness - Thug Notes Summary and Analysis" for a comical view into the plot of the novella (warning, video is not Naz appropriate). The video describes the book and the depth of the characters, the insight into their souls, the meaning behind their humanity and sinfulness. It portrays characters as Conrad observed humans, the good and the bad.

The changing of eras

The eras of art went from naturalism, romantic, and Realism, which lead to impressionism, which evolved into symbolism and post-impressionism.

One important change that occurred from the naturalistic and realistic era into the impressionistic was a common attitude among artists about basic problems of art. Artists wanted to change the way light was portrayed, themes of images captured, emotions conveyed, and brush work style.

Compared to the baroque period before, impressionism is much simpler, sensitive, emotional, and homey. Baroque was seen as complex, sensuous, deliberate, and dynamic. It characterized religious images and was influenced by the catholic church.

The post-impressionistic era differed by emphasizing symbolic content, formal order and structure. To post-impressionists, "color could be independent from form and composition as an emotional and aesthetic bearer of meaning" ( They were both similar however in the artificiality of paintings, portraying a recreated image of the real.

Cézanne, Van Gough, Seurat were some key artists during the post-impressionism period.

Compelling things I've learned

1:Landscapes - I thought it was very interesting to learn about the move from an expanding society and culture, filled with big ideas, big buildings and structures, big cities, and big everything, to a homestead, cozy, informal, intimate culture with portraits of landscapes, scenery, country side bridges, flowers, fields, and rivers.

2:Composers - as a classical pianist, I, of course, found the music of the period to be very intriguing. The sensitivity of Claire de Lune, expression of emotions in the nocturnes, and the power and majesty in Ravel's Miroirs 3 were so fun .

3:the Movement -the way the artists of the time revolted against characteristics, expectations, and traditions of the past era was really encouraging to learn about. Even though everyone of their time, in art education and art society and culture, said they had to be one way, perform one way, act one way, and convey certain messages through their art, the artists were able to change the entire era of art simply by standing true to who they were, what they wanted, and how they painted / composed / wrote. I found this to be very compelling to learn about.

"Credits & Acknowledgements"


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