Impressionism (from Latin impressio 'impression'; via the French impressionnisme) is a style in art history characterised by the atmospheric depiction of fleeting snapshots of scenery. It arose from a movement within painting in France in the second half of the 19th century. The term Impressionism was also applied to certain styles in music, literature, film and photography.
The painting Impression - soleil levant (1872) by Claude Monet gave the movement its name. However, it emerged much earlier. Édouard Manet's works from the 1860s already show fundamental elements of the incipient break with academic doctrine - for example, music in the Tuileries. The first group exhibition of the Impressionists took place in 1874 in the studio of the Parisian photographer Nadar.
The depiction of light and atmospheric conditions became the main painterly task in Impressionism. Colour was seen as a consequence of light and atmosphere and was rendered as a carrier of light. The partial abandonment of black and earthy tones lightened the colour palette.
The artists detached themselves from the painterly function of depiction. The immediacy of the snapshot and the randomness of the framing are characteristic features of Impressionist pictures. Photography also inspired the renunciation of completeness in favour of the creation of moods. Radical Impressionists such as Gustave Caillebotte (The Parquet Grinders) achieved this goal by using photographic stylistic devices such as snapshots and motion shots, extreme perspectives and distortions, selective cropping and blurring.
New insights were gained through Chevreul's modern colour theory. The industrial production of oil paints in sealable lead tubes (instead of pig bladders), patented in 1841 by the American painter John Goffe Rand, made open-air painting possible. This new painting practice, which was linked to a new view of the world and life, spread throughout Europe around 1900. From there it also reached the American continent (William Merritt Chase, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt) and as far as Australia (Charles Conder).
German Impressionism, on the other hand, represents a special path. It developed from Realism or Naturalism through "gradual refinement of the same stylistic means, namely towards the sensualist side, whereby all idealistic factors [...] become obsolete" and instead one limits oneself to the visual impression. Thus, Max Liebermann slowly became an Impressionist [...] through the "loosening up of his painterly technique and a preference for leafy canopies trickling with light, without abandoning his naturalistic achievements." With unimpressionist subjects, this often seems forced. Unlike in France, "mixed products" were created that lacked radiance. Lovis Corinth, too, began with realistic paintings, but with symbolist paintings of religious subjects; his Impressionist works already point to Expressionism. Max Slevogt, the third important German Impressionist, was initially inspired by Manet and later - especially in his landscape painting - by the light and colours during a trip to Egypt.