Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), 1872, oil on canvas, Musée Marmottan
This is the painting that started it all—Monet’s Impression, soliel levant (Impression, Sunrise). The work’s name sparked the Impressionist movement when critic Louis Leroy coined the term in his review. The characteristics of impressionism include the accurate depiction of light, with special consideration of its influence on time, the thickness and brevity of brushstroke, and ultimately depicting a scene as it would have naturally appeared
—the impression it leaves.
Edgar Degas, Stage Rehearsal, 1878–1879,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York City
But personally, my favorite attribute of most impressionistic works is that what you perceive up close is not what the reality is.
Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, Façade (sunset),
1892-1894, Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris
When you stand right next to an impressionistic painting, what you see are colors and brushstrokes running together. It is when you step back that you grasp the full meaning and significance of the piece.
Is this unlike life itself?
|Mary Cassatt, Children on the Beach (1884)|
My personal favorite, as I grew up looking at a reproduction of this everyday.
When we’re caught up in the fractiousness of day-to-day life, do we not forget what life is all about? Do we get so caught up in the details that we forget what we’re doing here? The details are crucial, however. Without the details there would be no big picture—what is a painting without each brushstroke? Sometimes, though, we need to step back. We need to look at the big picture. Are we running after something that is important, or are we being distracted from our ultimate goals in life. It’s when you step back that the painting gains clarity. So step back. Clear your mind. Appreciate the impressions going on around you. See the big picture.
It makes all of the difference.