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Impression, Sunrise by MonetImpression, Sunrise by Monet The Impressionists were a group of French painters who became well known during the 1870s and 1880s. They took their name from a painting by Claude Monet called Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise). The French critic Louis Leroy used the title to invent the word "Impressionism" in a humorous review of their work, and the name stuck. The Impressionists turned against the formal artistic styles of the day. Between 1874 and 1886 they held eight exhibitions of their own work. At first the Impressionists were laughed at, but they gradually gained widespread acceptance for their new style of painting. Today they are among the most popular artists of all.

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass) by ManetLe déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass) by Manet

Who were the Impressionists?

In 1863, the French artist Edouard Manet (1832–83) submitted a painting to the Salon, the exhibition of the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris, an institution that dominated French art at the time. Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Lunch on the Grass) showed two young men having a picnic with a naked woman. The Salon rejected it, but a number of younger artists supported Manet, and they decided to present their work in exhibitions separately from the Salon. They became known as the Impressionists.

The Harbour at Lorient by MorisotThe Harbour at Lorient by MorisotThe group included Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Armand Guillaumin, Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas and Berthe Morisot—but Manet himself decided not to join them. The Impressionists were not a single school of painters. Some sought to capture light and colour, while Degas, for example, favoured accurate drawing over the use of colour and painted indoor, rather than outdoor scenes.

The Impressionists took their name from a painting by Claude Monet called "Impression, soleil levant" (Impression, Sunrise).

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