The World Though the Prism of Ideas: Impressionism as It Is Essay

May 18, 2022 by Essay Writer

One of the world’s most mysterious and at the same time elegant branch of arts, impressionism, is both a riddle and an answer to it. Suggesting people to take a closer look into their own minds, impressionism offered that the spectator could incorporate his vision of the world together with that one of the author.

Despite its seeming simplicity and inspiring shapes, impressionism conveys the most complicated ideas and bases on philosophical and cultural foundation that has a history of its own. Discovering the ideas underlying the impressionists’ paintings, on can open the whole wide world in front of his/her eyes.

Speaking of the techniques that the artists used in creating their impressionism masterpieces, one must note that the style which impressionists used ensued from the peculiar vision of the world which impressionism presupposed.

Oriented exclusively on the ideas and perceptions of the artists, this style of painting could not be considered as a separate trend in visual arts – this is rather a string of ideas embodied in paintings. Depicted on the paper, the world picture of impressionists turned into the door to the other world – the world where the reality mixed with the surreal to create one of the most incredible cocktails. As van Gunsteren explained,

We may, first of all, certainly discount the more loose or merely lyrical usage in which impressionism means anything ‘fanciful’, ‘disorderly’ or ‘illogical’. Having done so, however, it is possible to penetrate to a fairly solid core of the new ideas and methods, which gave the group cohesion even without the formalized rules of a ‘school’ of French painters. (29)

Thus, it is obvious that there is more to impressionism that merely distorting the usual forms and shapes, turning them into a chaotic something. With the powerful idea in the background, an impressionism painting obtains the meaning of its own. With help of the impressionism vision, one can see the reverse side of the world, the subconscious and the sub-real. Getting into the depth of people’s minds, these images depict ideas, not objects, which is why this style differs from what the mankind is used to so much.

It is quite peculiar that impressionists were a kind of rebels in the sphere of art, breaking all possible laws of painting to create the ones of their own. According to Salvi, “The Impressionists broke many rues of academic painting. One was their insistence on working direct from experience” (16). This was where the idea of the plein-air technique appeared from – trying to find the right environment to create the masterpieces of their own, impressionists tried to break the boundaries of space, which led them to creating outdoors.

For them, painting did not mean staying behind closed doors in the cold light of a studio, but taking easel, canvas and paints and working en plein air (outdoors). This gave their canvases a feeling of spontaneity, but also required some new painting techniques. (Salvi 16)

Monet offered a perfect example of what the plein-air method of painting is. With his masterpiece called The Japanese Bridge, the author managed to represent not only the new idea of art, but also the new means to create it with. Painted with the plein-air technique, this was the essence of impressionism, the very spirit of the new art.

Breathing with the fresh ideas, this painting stirred the most unusual thoughts. Intriguing and capturing, this was the kind of masterpieces that gripped one and would not let go for another couple of hours. The creation required deep considerations and thorough meditations to understand the ideas underlying it.

Monet, Claude. The Japanese Bridge, c. 1919-24. Web.

Another perfect specimen of the new style of painting was the Water-Lily Pond that can be considered the perfect beginning of the impressionists’ triumph. With help of the peculiar open-air technique and the unusual, non-traditional approach to the art, the impressionism embodied in the Water-Lily Pond created quite a stir in the artistic circles.

This was a new and original way of expressing the ideas without fearing of being misunderstood – for impressionism could be understood in a million of ways; everything depended on the spectator.

Monet, Claude. The Water-Lily Pond, 1899. Web.

Indeed, the new art helped people to understand art in its new shape. Hiding beyond the disguise of the chaotic and the subconscious, the paintings created by impressionists made people open their eyes and see the reality the way it is. At this point, the definition of impressionism intertwines with the idea of ripping the world of its veil.

Lying bare and naked in front of the artist, the world took the most incredible shapes, which were depicted in the numerous impressionism paintings. Shockingly surreal and at the same time grotesquely true, these pieces broke new ground not only in the sphere of arts, but also in people’s lives.

Considering the three theories of art which Frank suggests, one can see clearly the way impressionism develop as the time passed by. Starting from what further on was called the theory of representation, the new style developed into the “pure seeing”, which later on evolved into the “experimental aesthetics” (Frank 2006).

Due to the organic and swift way in which the ideas of impressionism evolved, the latter shaped quickly and in rather natural way. Relying on their own vision of the world and their ideas concerning people and nature, artists embodied their impressions into peculiar and intriguing artworks. To understand the train of impressionists’ ideas, one has to consider the paintings by Monet as the founder of the new artistic tendency. For instance, his painting Irises is the very idea of impressionism itself:

Monet, Claude. Irises. c. 1914-17. Web.

To understand the essence of this peculiar vision, one has to consider the expressive theory. Painting their feelings on the canvas, artists could get rid of the haunting ideas for a while. But then the need to tell the world important truths took its toll on the artists again… Trying to regard “the flux of sensation in its totality”, as Holt brilliantly noted, they created the world of their own, the world that mirrored the reality.

In his creation Bathers at La Grenouillère, the artist also followed the famous representation style, with help of which he created most of his pieces. Like the rest of his pictures, this creation also featured the famous plein-air technique and followed the principles of the representation style. However, it must be admitted that this creation of the great artist also incorporated some elements of the traditional vision of the world as well.

Monet, Claude. Bathers at La Grenouillère 1869. Web.

Taking a closer look at the picture, one case that the artist deviated from the way in which he began creating the impressionist works. It has gained certain sociological meaning, for it considers the society in general rather that the sufferings of an individual.

Thus, there are no doubts that the impressionist ideas were broadening as the experience of the artists grew, and the spectrum of the ideas that could be communicated with help of the paintings grew increasingly huge. This is the right time to start talking about the formal theories of impressionism.

It cannot be denied that the pictures that followed Monet’s innovation in the world of art were mainly inspired by the great author of the Water-Lily Pond. However, there are no doubts that the main source of the painter’s inspiration came from their observations of the world, their meditations and their philosophical approach to understand the nature of a human being and the place the latter takes in the great circle of life.

However, it would be erroneous to speak of formal theories as of something that fit impressionists’ ideas impeccably once applied. It would be better to suggest that the formal approach was to be tailored to the ideas of impressionism. Since the latter presupposed the denial of any norms at all, the formal approach could not be applied to the paintings strictly. As Lanier noted,

Although there are similarities in their [impressionists’] art, these artists had no “formal theory” and “abandoned any fixed program.” They diminished the importance of subject matte, denied the importance of genre and subjected everything to the stamp of their own personalities and sensibilities. (79)

Morrisot, Berthe. Summer’s Day. c. 1879. Web.

However, it cannot be claimed that the sociocultural element of the impressionists’ paintings appeared only as time passed; one had better say that it became obvious only as certain time passed. Therefore, it can be suggested that the impressionism paintings helped the society get ready for certain changes in the vision of the world and the world philosophy. Since such transition could turn rather painful and ever impossible without any links to the previous experience, impressionism served as a bridge between the old and the new.

Considering the paintings from the sociocultural point of view, one has to admit that the authors of the pictures were trying to communicate their opinion concerning the most important vents in the social life of the then epoch. With help of their attempts, the paintings opened a door to the world where people could face their most secret ideas and feelings and realise that these are integral parts of themselves.

Every single picture created in the period when impressionism reigned spoke of the floating world, the time of changes, the instability and the attempts to relate a man to the nature. As Frank himself explains, the expressive theory of impressionism is one of the means to approach the mysterious pictures of impressionists, filled with the meaning that only the authors could see distinctly: “All art works are made by people.

The skill level, persona; intent, mental state, gender, or mindset of the creator must play a role in the creative process” (Frank 96). Glancing at the creations of impressionists, one can understand that the ideas of the world as chaos were only beginning to appear in their creations, whereas most of the pictures conveyed the idea of beauty in the natural and the irrational, the blurred vision of the world.

With help of the new artistic tendency, people have managed to experience an escape to an artistic Wonderland, which they must thank impressionists for. Unless Monet, Morisot, Renoir and all the rest had not contributed their viewpoint to the world of art, the latter would have been incomplete.

Works Cited

Frank, Patric. Prebles’ Artforms: An Introduction to the Visual Arts, 8th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006. Print.

Holt, Ysanne. British Artists and the Modernist Landscape. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2003. Print.

Lanier, Doris. Absinthe the Cocaine of the Nineteenth Century: A History of the Hallucinogenic Drug and Its Effect on Artists and Writers in Europe and the United States. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004. Print.

Salvi, Francesco. The Impressionists. Minneapolis, MN: The Oliver Press, 2008. Print.

Van Gunsteren, Julia. Katherine Mansfield and Literary Impressionism. Amsterdam: Rodopi1990. Print.

Read more