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Impressionism was once considered radical. In color, brushwork, and subject, these paintings and sculptures shocked the French art establishment when publicly exhibited in the 1870s.

Their makers—a loose association of independently minded men and women—had become frustrated by the rules and traditions of the official French art of the day, which prized realistic depictions of great moments in history and religion. They instead wanted to capture the everyday world around them in ways that felt immediate, honest, and lively.

With pure, unmixed colors, visible brushstrokes, and roughly sculpted surfaces, these works sometimes left audiences wondering if they were made as sketches (“impressions”) for subsequent, more polished pieces. The artists matched their innovative techniques with unconventional subjects. A view of a bustling city street, an informal portrait of a child, or a study of the momentary effects of light and weather on a landscape became vehicles for transforming how the art of their time looked and was made.

Online Exhibition

Image Gallery

Highlights from our collection of Impressionist art

Watch: Monet’s Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny
Learn how Monet’s work was inspired by a deep appreciation for the natural world and an interest in Japanese art.


Jennifer Thompson, The Gloria and Jack Drosdick Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection; with Eileen Owens, Research and Exhibition Assistant, European Painting
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Learn about Berthe Morisot, an essential figure in the Impressionist movement.

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