Impressionism

Impressionism was one of the most important artistic movements of the nineteenth century. In the 1860s a group of young French artists attempted to record visual impressions of fleeting moments on canvas. They focused on capturing changes in light and the effects of colour. In doing so, painters like Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Degas and Pissarro ignored the academic traditions of painting, applying paint thickly instead of smoothly and rejecting a restrained palette in favour of exuberant colours.

With their bright, rapidly executed paintings, the Impressionists sought to depict what they saw in a realistic manner. After all, our impressions of the world are more akin to fleeting visual sensations of light and colour than to photorealistic images.

Impressionism emerged partly from an interest in the science behind the observation of colour and light. Neo-Impressionism built on this, as artists like Signac and Seurat applied unmixed colours directly to the canvas, producing pictures built up of evenly applied dots. This entirely new approach to painting was based on pseudo-scientific theories about how we see colour. The correct combination and distribution of colour was believed to lead to unity and harmony in the eyes of the viewer.

In reaction to Neo-Impressionism, the Post-Impressionists adopted an anti-realistic approach. Gauguin and Van Gogh believed that scientific guidelines could not be reconciled with their need to expression emotion and ideas in art.

The Gemeentemuseum’s collection includes works by Monet, Degas, Signac and Van Gogh. The museum houses three major works by Monet: Quai du Louvre (1867), Fishing Nets at Pourville (1882) and Wisteria (1917-1920). Together, these paintings represent the three most important phases of Monet’s work, giving the Gemeentemuseum one of the finest Monet collections in the Netherlands.

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