Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Impressionist Effect

Impressionism seeks to accomplish something photography can't. It offers an impression of a scene—the feeling of a mere glance. When you glance at a scene in the real world, your mind does not have time to register the details. What is memorable is the general color scheme and the feelings that are associated with it. In an Impressionist painting, the details of a scene are conveyed in a way not unlike the mind's recording of a momentary glance. A painting is static; it allows the viewer time to seek out the details. But unlike a photograph, Impressionism doesn't convey details. It forces the viewer to experience the feeling of a mere impression—no matter how long he stares at it—and this is why it can do something photography can't.

Brush strokes of the Impressionist artist Berthe Morisot
The brushwork of the
 Impressionist Berthe Morisot
The invention of the camera had a dramatic effect on art because it suddenly could record the world better than even the greatest artists. It led to something of a new purpose in art, but the art establishment would resist this at first. In 1872 the French painter Claude Monet titled a work Impression, Sunrise. Critics mocked the painting as an unfinished sketch, labeling Monet and similar artists derisively as impressionists. But Monet had no reason to "finish" his paintings; he knew what he was doing and what effect he was trying to create.

Artists create the Impressionist effect by using solid, visible brush strokes of alternating color. You know you are looking at pure Impressionism when these brush strokes dominate the entire composition. There is no attempt to hide the strokes because the details of the subject are not important. The mind is what mixes colors together and forms patterns. The emotional response to viewing an Impressionist painting will depend on the viewer's past experiences—it will more strongly evoke the feelings of actually being there than a photograph will. The subconscious seems to quickly uncover a photograph's true nature, but all too often it is fooled by a good Impressionist painting.

No comments:

Post a Comment