Impressionism vs. Expressionism
“I don't know much about art, but I know what I like.”
It is not known who first said “Je ne connais pas grand chose à l'art mais je sais ce que j'aime,” or the English translation above.
When many people view a painting or a piece of sculpture, they have a reaction to it, be it positive or negative. They haven’t studied art, they know nothing about styles of painting, and they can’t tell the difference between a painting by Dutch painter and etcher Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and one by Spanish-born French painter Pablo Picasso.
They go to—or are dragged to—a museum. They see many paintings. Some paintings they like and other paintings evoke a negative reaction.
Don’t you think that a person would enjoy their art museum visit a lot more if, when viewing a painting in a museum from a distance of at least six feet, they were able to identify the artist or the style in which the artist painted?
In this article, I’ll explain the differences between the Impressionist and the Expressionist schools of painting. Then, the next time you visit an art museum or gallery, you’ll be better able to decide which paintings you like, and understand why you like them.
When Was the Impressionist Movement and Who Were the Impressionists?
The Impressionist movement, which originated in France in the 19th century, lasted from 1867 to 1886.
Among the artists most closely associated with the movement are:
- Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)
- Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
- Claude Monet (1840-1926)
- Camille Pissaro (1830-1903)
- Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
- Alfred Sisley (1839-1899)
What Is Impressionism?
Impressionism is generally considered to be a spontaneous method of painting in which an artist attempts to capture the impression of light in a scene. The Impressionists broke from the traditional painting methods of their day and applied paint in small touches of pure color rather than mix the paint and apply it in broad strokes using a painting knife or a brush. This method allowed the artists to emphasize the impression of their subject matter rather than paint the object in a more realistic manner.
Impressionism enabled the artist to paint an image in the way that someone might see it if they only caught a quick glimpse of the subject. Most impressionist paintings are outdoor scenes painted in vibrant colors without an emphasis on detail.
When Was the Expressionist Movement and Who were the Expressionists?
The Expressionist movement existed in both Germany and France from 1905 to 1925.
Some of the artists closely associated with the movement are:
- Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
- Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944)
- Paul Klee (1879-1940)
- August Macke (1887-1914)
- Franz Marc (1880-1916)
- Henri Matisse (1869-1964)
- Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
What Is Expressionism?
Expressionist paintings are characterized by distortion and exaggeration in order to create an emotional effect. The paintings are full of vivid imagery and emotion and are often described as showing a touch of the dark side of human nature.The expressionist style utilizes intense color, disjointed spaces, and agitated brushstrokes.
Expressionist painters show their emotions and personal views in their work. They portray subjective reality rather than realism. Artists who paint in this style might incorporate fantasy and violence in their subject matter in order to show the extremes of emotion.